Standing in the living room of their house, now full of mud, slime and debris, Helen and Peter Kelly cannot believe that Congress is bickering over disaster aid to people like them.
Darlene Swithers is a Pennsylvania resident whose home was severely damaged. “They should be put in a corner and take a timeout and start working together as a team,” Swithers said of lawmakers. “I’m so sick of hearing Republicans this and Democrats that.”
The roaring waters of the Susquehanna River burst into their home more than two weeks ago. “Water — you work with it every day, and then it destroys your whole life,” Mrs. Kelly said.
…The Kellys also lost confidence in government and politicians.
“I wish they would understand that people like us are really in need of assistance,” Mr. Kelly said, pointing to a bathtub filled with mud and to the blades of a ceiling fan twisted out of shape by torrents of floodwater.
A few miles away in Falls Township, Pa., houses were upended, lifted off their foundations and carried a few hundred feet downstream. Huge piles of rubbish, furniture, mattresses, carpets and clothing line the streets.
Michael J. Golembeski and his family spent the weekend cleaning up. Mr. Golembeski offered a sardonic take on the fight that has brought the federal government to the brink of a shutdown, a dispute between Republicans and Democrats in Congress over money for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides aid in disasters.
“Neither side wants the other side to get credit for doing anything good,” Mr. Golembeski said. “Elections are coming up.”
With just five days to go before the start of a new fiscal year, the Senate is scheduled to take a test vote on Monday on a stopgap spending bill that includes money for disaster relief. The Senate action seems unlikely to resolve the impasse with the House, where the Republican majority wants to offset some of the cost with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
People here in northeastern Pennsylvania, already traumatized by the loss of their homes, were further disheartened by word that FEMA’s disaster relief fund was running short of money.
“Members of Congress are playing with people’s lives, not just their own political careers,” said Martin J. Bonifanti, chief of the Lake Winola volunteer fire company. “While they are rattling on among themselves down there in Washington, people are suffering.”
Mr. Bonifanti said his politics were simple: “If they are in, they should be out.””
Way to earn that 15% approval rating, Congress.