The $1 trillion federal spending plan that President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday created a rare rift in Louisiana's normally relatively homogeneous congressional delegation.
Half of the state's congressmen and one U.S. senator voted against the plan, citing a range of concerns over where the money will go and how it will impact Louisiana.
Half of the state's congressmen and one U.S. senator voted for the appropriations bill, which funds the federal government through the September end of the budget cycle.
"With this funding bill, we keep the government open for business to responsibly fund our priorities to serve and protect our citizens, while implementing key elements of President Trump's agenda," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Republican who has been a key ally of the Trump administration and voted in favor of the appropriations bill. "With Americans sending Republican majorities to both chambers of Congress and the White House with President Trump, we are finally able to start the process of getting Washington bureaucrats out of the lives of everyday citizens and ensure an efficient use of Americans' tax dollars that put the needs of hardworking taxpayers first."
Joining Scalise in voting for the measure were Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and U.S. Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre.
Voting against the spending plan were: U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, and U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge; Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City; and Ralph Abraham, R-Alto.
"The bill had a number of things in it that I supported," Graves said on Friday.
But he said he was concerned about the speed with which it zipped through Congress, financial assistance that it grants to cash-strapped Puerto Rico and the amount that it directs toward Louisiana's ongoing recovery from last year's catastrophic floods.
"The flood funding level, I think, was lower than that which I think is justified," Graves said.
It's unclear how much flood recovery assistance Louisiana will get from it, but it will be less than $400 million. The state, which has already received about $1.6 billion in federal flood assistance, had sought an additional $2 billion.
Graves said he and Richmond teamed up to try to amend the spending plan to get additional aid in the bill but amendments weren't allowed.
Louisiana would receive less than $400 million in additional flood recovery funds under a sp…
It could be September – a year after the floods swept across the capital region and south Louisiana – before the state gets another shot at additional aid.
"We don't need to be talking about additional funds in August of 2017," Graves said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was similarly disappointed in the level of funding.
“The additional funding is helpful, and we are extremely grateful that Congress has stepped up to help Louisiana again. However, HUD’s data still says that we are $1 billion short of the funds we need to give every homeowner impact assistance," Edwards said in an email. "We will continue our work with the congressional delegation and return to Congress to request the support the people of Louisiana need.”
Kennedy was one of 18 Republican senators who voted against the federal spending bill on Thursday. He took issue with the process and what he views as out-of-control spending.
“We can and must do a better job of setting priorities and living within our means as we go about the important and solemn job of spending precious taxpayer money," he said.
Abraham, whose north Louisiana district suffered from floods more than a year ago, took issue with the level of flood recovery funding and other items in the bill.
“With control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, I believe conservatives have a tremendous opportunity to not only significantly rein in deficit spending, but also redirect money from bad programs to good ones," he said. "I’m not convinced the omnibus achieved those goals, and I hope Congress will work over the next several months to produce the type of responsible spending bill the American people demanded in the last election."
Graves said the omnibus bill was a large document and first revealed 48 hours before a vote.
"I think it lacked the more transparent process that I think is appropriate," he said. "I think it's an opaque way to govern."
But Scalise pointed to several other areas of the appropriations bill as boons to Louisiana residents.
It includes $109 million for repairs to NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility and $8.6 million to the USDA National Finance Center, both of which was damaged earlier this year when a powerful EF3 tornado hit New Orleans.
Scalise, during a telephone town hall on Friday, said that the area risked losing jobs tied to those facilities if the government didn't move to rebuild them there. "I wanted a commitment that we would rebuild those facilities," he said.
Louisiana is also in line for $15 million in emergency law enforcement aid after a 2016 marked by natural disasters and high-profile shootings of and involving officers.
LSU President F. King Alexander said Friday that LSU is in line to receive $23.5 million of the $1.1 billion for research in the omnibus. About half will go toward funding research on cyber security for small businesses, Alexander told the LSU Board of Supervisors.