The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $19 billion disaster aid bill that would provide long-sought relief to farmers, victims of hurricanes and floods and rebuild military bases.
The measure must now go to the Republican-controlled Senate, which has been logjammed for months over aid to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.
The House measure passed 257-150 over the opposition of most House Republicans who said it should also include the Trump administration’s $4.5 billion request for stepped up humanitarian aid and law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since the House passed a smaller disaster assistance bill in January, Midwestern floods have added billions of dollars to the growing list of disaster needs, while a rising wave of Central American migrants seeking refuge from violence in their countries is requiring additional billions of dollars to house and care for thousands of migrants.
The $14 billion House bill passed in January has been held up in the Senate by a fight between President Donald Trump and Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico. Trump is feuding with Democratic officials on the island and falsely claims that Puerto Rico has already received $91 billion in aid.
The bill the House passed Friday added $3 billion to the earlier House bill to help Midwest states such as Iowa and Nebraska recover from this spring’s floods. It was then successfully amended on the floor several times by lawmakers in both parties who added $1.9 billion to the measure, chiefly to rebuild military bases in Nebraska and Florida and deliver more flood aid for the Midwest.
The House bill passed Friday did not include the $4.5 billion the White House wanted in emergency funding for the U.S.–Mexico border.
Trump had spent time Thursday tweeting that House Republicans should vote in opposition of “the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security. We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!”
Despite the president’s pleas, 34 Republicans broke with Trump to support the House bill.
It seems almost certain that Senate Republicans will amend the House-passed bill to include the $4.5 billion Trump wants for the border.
Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s senior senator, said Wednesday that rolling border-related funding into the disaster bill would likely make it more difficult to pass a measure that already struggling to move forward.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said, “It would make it much harder to get passed — that’s why I would like to see (the $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the U.S.-Mexico border) as a separate package. We’d like to just take a straight up disaster aid bill.”
Last week, a bipartisan group of governors from 10 states — including Iowa and Nebraska — sent a letter to Trump and congressional leaders urging support for disaster relief. They noted that while preliminary measures had moved forward in both chambers, it would be fitting for Washington to show greater urgency.
Unfortunately, any hopes for urgency will likely be thwarted if Republicans, at Trump’s urging, insist on adding border funding to disaster legislation.