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Congress Finally Approves Disaster-Relief Package for Puerto Rico & Military

— June 6, 2019

The package was held up for months due to Republican interference and President Trump’s insistence that it include $4.5 billion in border funds.

Congress finally approved a massive disaster-relief package on Monday, freeing up billions of dollars for places that needed the money months ago.

According to The New York Times, the package passed with a 354-to-58 vote in the House of Representatives. Although the Senate had overwhelmingly approved the same bundle last month, its passage was “lengthy and complex.”

“Today we are rejecting the political stunts and grandstanding that have made it difficult to deliver much-needed disaster relief to families and communities across America,” Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) said Monday.

Lowey, notes the Times, is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee and played an integral role in putting together the relief package.

President Trump—who the NYT says froze the bill’s progress in the Senate by refusing to sign it—now says he’ll relent. Part of the commander-in-chief’s reluctance stems from the aid package’s inclusion of $900 million in recovery funds for Puerto Rico.

What it doesn’t include is the $4.5 billion Trump wanted to supplement border security forces and wall construction.

Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. Climate change is expected to create more and stronger storms of this nature, increasing instability in global weather systems.
Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. Public domain photo by NASA, courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

“Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy,” the president tweeted shortly after the bill’s passage.

The president’s apparent disdain for Puerto Rico—a U.S. territory inhabited by U.S. citizens—was a major source of contention for legislators. While residents of the Caribbean territory are entitled to U.S. citizenship the same as any other American, they’re not represented in Congress.

Democrats in both chambers, writes the Times, were ‘adamant’ that the territory needed more money for its post-Hurricane Maria recovery.

“Those who have endured devastating natural disasters deserve to know the federal government will not leave them to meet these challenges alone,” said Rep. Steny M. Hoyer (D-MD).

Ironically, Republicans blamed their liberal counterparts for the slow-down, saying Puerto Ricans were suffering because Democrats refused to provide the president’s requested funds.

“The appropriated resources will begin to provide necessary aid and relief to the millions of Americans around the country struggling from the devastation caused by natural disasters,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said. “However, it’s unfortunate that Democrats dragged their feet for so long and yet still refuse to address the humanitarian and national security crisis taking place along our southern border.”

In fact, notes the New York Times, three different House Republicans used political tactics to prevent the aid package from reaching President Trump’s desk.

The bill includes $3 billion for military base improvements and reconstruction, $2.4 billion for storm development grants for Puerto Rico and several states and another $3.25 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair damaged infrastructure and prepare for future disasters.


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