Senate passes fire department grant program

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the Democratic leadership arrive to speak with reporters following a closed-door strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to reauthorize federal grants for local fire departments after the legislation stalled for weeks amid debates on amendments.

The measure passed 95-2 with Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul voting against it.

The bill, which next heads to the House, would allow grant programs for local fire departments to continue for seven more years. It also allots $95 million a year to the U.S. Fire Administration, which collects data on fires and supports fire safety nationwide.

“We desperately need this legislation. We need it for firefighters, both paid and volunteer, around the country,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.

Schumer, a Democrat, added that the bipartisan vote and amendment process showed how the Senate can still operate in a “very good and productive way.”

The bill was on track to pass the Senate earlier this month, but Paul objected to its quick passage.

Paul had previously objected to the grants because “they should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget."

Republicans and Democrats worked out an agreement to vote on four amendments while advancing the bill. None of the amendments succeeded.