House Passes $19 Billion Disaster Relief Bill

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The House cleared a $19 billion disaster-aid plan for areas hit by hurricanes, Midwest floods and California wildfires on Monday after months of negotiations and a final delay of more than a week caused by Republican objections.

The bill, passed 354-58 as the House returned from a week-long recess, now goes to President Donald Trump, who has said he supports the measure although it omits border security funds he requested. The Senate passed it on May 23.

Trump hailed passage of the bill on Twitter, saying, “Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy.”

Southern lawmakers have been clamoring for relief for farmers in states hit by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which wiped out timber and pecan crops in Alabama and Georgia.

“While it has taken far too long, this bill delivers much-needed assistance to American communities struck by recent natural disasters,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, said on the Senate floor Monday.

The bill includes $900 million for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The disaster-aid measure was delayed for about six months amid Trump’s objections to additional aid for the U.S. territory.

In April, the president told Senate Republicans that Puerto Rico squandered previous disaster assistance and should receive no more. He argued that the island was using funds to pay off its debts, a charge that Puerto Rican officials deny. An earlier version of the bill contained $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Ricans but omitted other rebuilding aid.

Trump had also insisted on adding more funds to detain undocumented migrants arriving at the border with Mexico. That dispute has been put off until this month.

The president agreed to back the disaster-aid bill, H.R. 2157, on May 23 after his Senate ally David Perdue of Georgia called him.

“We’re going to get the immigration money later, according to everybody,” the president said last month shortly after the Senate passed the bill. “I have to take care of my farmers with the disaster relief.”

A day earlier, the president walked out of a White House meeting on public works projects with Democratic leaders. The president said at the time he wouldn’t negotiate with Democrats as long as they continued congressional investigations of his campaign, businesses and associates.

Final House passage of the bill was held up during last week’s congressional recess as three Republicans — Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and John Rose of Tennessee — blocked three attempts to use a fast-track procedure to send the measure to Trump’s desk while lawmakers were out of town.



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