Deal struck to pass $19 billion disaster relief package without border funds
WASHINGTON — Republicans senators say President Donald Trump has agreed to a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, providing relief to a country beset by devastating floods, wildfires and hurricanes without funding for the border that the President had sought.
Late Thursday, the President tweeted his approval of the measure: “The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!”
The Senate passed the measure Thursday afternoon by a vote of 85 to 8.
The House is expected to pass it Friday and key Republican lawmakers say President Trump has agreed to sign it. Congress will be out for recess next week.
It took months for Congress and the White House to strike a deal, as negotiations between Republicans and Democrats stalled over funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border and how to rebuild Puerto Rico two years after Hurricane Maria hit the US territory.
The legislation is crucial to all corners of the country. The Midwest has been hit with record floods since March. California had its most destructive fires in 2018. Seven months after Hurricane Michael hit, Florida and Georgia are still rebuilding. Puerto Rico is struggling to recover after Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people.
Both Republicans and Democrats praised the compromise.
“Let’s just move forward and get disaster aid done,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who criticized Trump’s involvement in the negotiations. “We got all we wanted on Puerto Rico.”
“It’s a good deal,” added Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
Shelby told reporters that he and Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia had spoken to the President about the deal and President Trump, who has long-stated issues with Puerto Rico receiving more aid, agreed to support the measure.
A summary of the bill written by the office of Sen. Pat Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations committee, said the deal included more than $3 billion to “repair damaged infrastructure” and to “reduce the risk” of floods and hurricanes in the future, about $3 billion to “rebuild our military bases and coast guard facilities,” $3 billion to support farmers, $2.4 billion for Community Development Block Grants to “rebuild and mitigate future disaster,” $605 million for food benefits to Puerto Rico and an additional $304 million in aid to Puerto Rico.
The House, which recessed Thursday’s afternoon, is expected to pass the measure Friday morning by unanimous consent, according to a leadership aide.
“Ever since the House’s first vote on disaster relief on January 16, Congressional Democrats have worked to negotiate a disaster relief package that provides assistance for all Americans, including in Puerto Rico,” said House Appropriations Committee communications director Evan Hollander. “Chairwoman (Nita) Lowey is pleased that President Trump and Republicans have agreed to bipartisan, comprehensive disaster relief legislation that will meet urgent needs across the country.”