President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a long overdue $19.1 billion disaster aid bill aimed at helping communities across the country bounce back from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires.
The bill languished for months amid disputes over Trump’s demand for border funding, as well as additional aid for Puerto Rico, which the president opposed.
The bill started out as a modest $7.8 billion measured passed in the last days of the GOP’s control of the House.
With Democrats taking control of the House, the bill grew to $14 billion in January and ballooned to $19.1 billion by the time it emerged from the House last month, an increase largely fed by new funding for community rehabilitation projects, Army Corps of Engineers water and flood protections projects and rebuilding funds for several military bases, including Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska.
As lawmakers prepared to vacate Washington for the Memorial Day recess, the GOP-controlled Senate passed the disaster aid bill by an 88-5 vote that many saw as reflecting a consensus that the bill was long overdue.
When Congress returned after the Memorial Day break, conservative Republicans in the House held up the bill, arguing legislation that reflects an increasingly permissive attitude on spending to address disasters shouldn’t be rushed through without a recorded vote.
They should take those arguments — in person — to the millions of Americans who have been directly impacted by these disasters.
The bill Trump signed on Air Force One Thursday is largely the same as a version that passed the house last month, then being opposed by Republicans for not including Trump’s $4 billion-plus request to care for thousands of mostly Central American migrants being held at the southern border.
As the assistance measure languished, disasters did not take a break, with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio adding to the nation’s weather-related woes — as well as adding to the pressure on Congress and the president to do something to address the growing damages.
While Congress was right to act and Trump was right to sign the legislation, it remains to be seen if still more will be needed to address Mother Nature’s rampages.