House Approves Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Aid Over Trump’s Opposition

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday again approved a massive emergency relief bill for farmers and communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters, escalating a standoff with President Trump, who has resisted more aid to Puerto Rico and demanded additional money for immigration enforcement.

Thirty-four House Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in approving the emergency package, which passed 257-150 and would send $19.1 billion in relief and recovery assistance across the country and give a quick cash infusion to farmers swamped by floods and caught in the president’s trade war.

The package builds on a measure that was initially passed in January, in the midst of a government shutdown, and rejected by the Senate for not accommodating the floods that recently devastated the Midwest. That flood relief was included in the package passed on Friday, which should intensify pressure on the Senate to reach an agreement with or without the president.

“Disaster‑struck communities can’t afford the Republicans’ inaction on this,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, speaking at a news conference on Thursday. “They haven’t taken up one bill. They haven’t initiated their own bill.”

“Hopefully,” she added, “the combination of our earlier bill and this bill that addresses more recent disasters will be something that they will let us proceed on.”

So far Mr. Trump has not softened his opposition, primarily focused on the money allocated to Puerto Rico’s recovery from devastating hurricanes in 2017. Just as he claimed that his trade war has helped farmers, despite plunging commodity prices and a closing Chinese market, the president asserted this week that billions of dollars in relief for farm states would harm farmers.

“House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter late Thursday. “We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!”

Though most Republicans are still voting with the president, their frustration is beginning to show. Representative Austin Scott, Republican of Georgia, blasted the White House budget office at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Thursday, saying budget office officials “consider the American farmer and the American farm family nothing but subsidy-sucking freeloaders.”

“There’s a disconnect in what is actually coming out of the administration and what the administration is telling us that they’re going to do,” he said.

The standoff in Washington is having real-world impact. Puerto Ricans saw their first increase in nutritional assistance expire in March. Coastal states are urgently awaiting reconstruction funding less than a month before the next hurricane season begins. And farmers across the southeast and Midwest are still reeling from floods and tornadoes as they brace for a new round of tariffs likely to be imposed on their crops by China in retaliation for tariffs imposed on Chinese exports by the Trump administration on Friday.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained falsely that $91 billion has been sent to the island since the 2017 hurricanes. About $41 billion in aid has been allocated to the island, according to the Office of Management and Budget, while $91 billion — the number Mr. Trump frequently cites — is the budget office’s estimate of how much the island could receive over the next two decades.

His treatment of the American territory has rankled allies of the island, which does not have voting congressional representation, and prompted a number of Boston Red Sox players to boycott a World Series celebration at the White House Thursday, including the team’s manager Alex Cora, a native of Puerto Rico.

“It is un-American to deny nutrition assistance to American citizens living in Puerto Rico, particularly children,” said Representative Nydia Velázquez, Democrat of New York and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the House, in a speech on the House floor. “We should be ashamed that the richest country — the most powerful country in the world — that we allow children to suffer this way.”

Adding a new complication, the White House demanded $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the southwestern border earlier this month and is now pushing to combine the two supplemental spending requests.

The Defense Department on Friday is expected to divert another $1.5 billion from other military projects and programs to the construction of barriers at the southwestern border.

Mr. Trump’s Thursday evening tweet urging that House Republicans oppose the bill was not a presidential thought tossed off lightly. The White House for a week has been debating internally how to signal its opposition to the bill.

The White House considered issuing a veto threat earlier in the week, but decided against that because Mr. Trump was heading to hurricane-battered Florida for a campaign rally, and they didn’t want to pre-empt his appearance there with opposition to a bill that is a big priority in the state. At the rally, the president instead

On Thursday, the White House considered putting out a formal statement of administration policy, a written document explaining in depth its position on a legislative issue.

But in the end, officials decided that the best way for the White House whip operation to steer Republican votes away from the bill was to issue a tweet.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*