Republicans vote against food assistance for veterans and hurricane aid for Florida

Food insecurity

The House of Representatives passed a bill to address food insecurity among veterans last week. H.R. 8888, the “Food Security for All Veterans Act,” would establish an office within the VA that will be responsible for disseminating information to veterans about federal nutrition assistance programs and collaborating with other program offices to identify and treat veterans at risk of or experiencing food insecurity. According to a 2021 study from the Department of Agriculture, working-age veterans are at a 7.4% greater risk of food insecurity than nonveterans.

The bill, introduced by new Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola, passed in a 376-49 vote. Every opposing vote was cast by Republicans, including Reps. Dan Crenshaw (TX), Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Jim Jordan (OH), Mary Miller (IL), Scott Perry (PA), and Steve Scalise (LA).

Many of the lawmakers who voted against providing veterans with increased food assistance have denigrated the military for being too “woke” or for requiring vaccination against Covid-19.

Mental health funding

The House also passed a bill last week to increase mental health support for students. H.R. 7780, called the “Mental Health Matters Act,” authorizes several grant programs to support school-based mental health services and providers. It also seeks to fund institutes of higher education to recruit and train more graduates in school counseling, school social work, and school psychology, outlining that there should be at least one counselor for every 250 students in each K-12 school.

Additionally, if passed by the Senate, the legislation would increase students’ access to evidence-based trauma support and mental health services by linking schools and districts with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems

H.R. 7780 passed the House in a 220-205 vote. All but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), voted against it — despite claiming that the cause of school shootings is mental health issues, not unfettered access to firearms. For example, during a hearing on gun control following the Uvalde shooting, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) said that “the most obvious answer” to school gun violence is funding “to help identify students with menthol health issues.” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), explicitly mentioned more guidance counselors would reduce school shootings during the same hearing. Both voted with their party against H.R. 7780.

Hurricane relief

The House approved a stopgap government funding bill last week that contained funding for victims of Hurricane Ian.

H.R. 6833 passed in a 230-201 vote, with not a single Republican from Florida voting in favor. The measure contained $18.8 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the recovery from natural disasters like hurricanes. Yet, the Florida representatives who voted against the aid — like Rep. Matt Gaetz — continued to criticize the federal government for “failing” to provide adequate assistance to their communities.

“Dear Congress: On behalf of my fellow Florida Man in grave need of assistance…. Just send us like half of what you sent Ukraine. Signed, Your Fellow Americans,” Gaetz tweeted just days after voting against FEMA funding.

The Senate earlier passed the government funding bill in a 72-25 vote, with one Florida senator — Rick Scott — voting against it and the other — Marco Rubio — not voting at all. Both senators then sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee chairs that requested “much-needed assistance to Florida.”

Hurricane Ian will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States. Communities across Florida have been completely destroyed, and lives have been forever changed. A robust and timely federal response, including through supplemental programs and funding, will be required to ensure that sufficient resources are provided to rebuild critical infrastructure and public services capacity, and to assist our fellow Floridians in rebuilding their lives. These provisions must be made a priority and considered at the earliest opportunity.

Rubio complained that the funding bill contained “a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief. Scott also cited a desire not to “waste money” to explain his ‘no’ vote.