WASHINGTON -- Minnesota Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton said Wednesday they'll watch the remaining appropriation bills to make sure Minnesota gets its share of disaster assistance.
They said they'd hold up any bill that puts disaster assistance to other parts of the country ahead of Minnesota and the Midwest.
The senators, both Democrats, are seeking $5.5 billion in disaster assistance to farmers across the plains. That includes 19 counties in northwest Minnesota that have been declared disaster areas because of floods, as well as drought-ravaged parts of South Dakota, Montana and other states.
None of the remaining appropriation bills for 2003 federal spending contain proposals for disaster assistance at this point. They are usually added in amendments.
The first opportunity may be in a bill for Interior department spending in the next couple of weeks.
Wellstone said that if he has to hold up emergency aid to Western states that have endured one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, he'll do it.
"We cannot help some people and not others," he said on the Senate floor.
"If any appropriations bill includes assistance for fire or any other disaster, we will slow up that bill -- we will stop that bill if we need to -- until we get a commitment for emergency disaster assistance for the farmers in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and other states where there have been natural disasters."
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