Congress Reaches Deal on Disaster Aid; Trump’s Border Request Omitted

May 24, 2019by Jennifer Haberkorn
Debris from Hurricane Michael rests along the canal on Oct. 18, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Fla. The House passed a $19.2 billion disaster aid package. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS) *FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY*

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders reached agreement Thursday on a $19.1 billion package to help states recover from natural disasters, including the California wildfires.

The deal came after the White House agreed to give up on its demand for $4.5 billion in humanitarian border aid to be included in the disaster bill. Congressional Democrats — who blame the border crisis on President Donald Trump’s policies — said they wouldn’t support the funding without new protections for asylum-seekers.

The Senate approved the bill 85-8 Thursday afternoon after all 100 senators agreed to fast-track the legislation. The House could approve the legislation as soon as Friday if GOP and Democratic leaders agree to pass it, even though most members of the House left Washington on Thursday for a weeklong recess.

The legislative breakthrough between top Republicans and Democrats in Congress came just a day after Trump suggested he would not approve any legislation unless Democrats stop their investigations into his administration.

The bill’s funding can be used by states to address the consequences of last year’s wildfires and hurricanes, including those in California and along the East Coast, respectively, as well as tornadoes and floods in the Midwest this year.

California will be eligible for up to $12.6 billion of the new spending, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The bill will also make people who suffered losses from the Paradise fire eligible for rural development funds from the Department of Agriculture, money that would not have otherwise been available to them, according to Feinstein.

Such bills to respond to natural disasters were once relatively perfunctory in the Senate. But this package has been under debate for months, bogged down by political disputes.

The bill appeared unlikely to pass as recently as Wednesday. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, blamed lawmakers for being unwilling to compromise.

“We got into this paradigm or game where it’s a zero-sum operation, where somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, and that’s not conducive to compromise,” Cornyn said.

Republicans had earlier relented in a spat over safeguarding funding for Puerto Rico. The president had threatened to restrict future disaster aid to the island and Democrats included protections for Puerto Rico in the bill. The bill will provide about $1.4 billion in aid to the island.

Trump assured GOP Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Richard Shelby of Alabama in a phone call Thursday afternoon that he would support the disaster package without the border funding.

Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, credited Trump for enabling the breakthrough.

“I want to thank President Trump for breaking the gridlock and getting this disaster relief to Americans who so desperately need it,” Shelby said. “We have been working on this package for several months, and I am pleased to say that help is finally on the way.”

It was just six months ago that the government was partially shut down over Trump’s demands for border security funding as part of a larger government spending bill. But the latest Trump request, rather than for a border wall, was intended to handle the surge of people arriving and being held at the border. Vice President Mike Pence had been pressing lawmakers to approve the humanitarian aid.

“I’m frankly a little bit surprised (Trump’s) willing to leave that off,” Cornyn said of the disaster bill.

Lawmakers said Thursday that they would continue to consider Trump’s border funding request.

Eight senators, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted against the disaster bill. The former GOP presidential candidate said the bill was loaded with “billions of dollars in unrelated pet projects.”

“Instead of rushing through billion-dollar spending bills at the eleventh hour without sufficient input or debate, Congress needs to start budgeting for natural disasters,” Romney said.

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Congress

Espaillat-Rooney Bill Boosts Funding and Cooperation in the Caribbean
Drugs
Espaillat-Rooney Bill Boosts Funding and Cooperation in the Caribbean
November 24, 2020
by Sean Trambley

WASHINGTON – Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan measure increasing funding to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to help combat corruption and illicit drug trafficking between the United States and Caribbean nations. Introduced by Reps. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., and Francis Rooney, R-Fla.,... Read More

Feinstein Won't Seek Top Democrat Spot on Judiciary Committee
U.S. Senate
Feinstein Won't Seek Top Democrat Spot on Judiciary Committee
November 24, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Monday she will step down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee when the 117th Congress convenes in January, apparently bowing to critics who believe she wasn't aggressive enough in her handling of Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court... Read More

Hoyer, Durbin Aides Named to Biden Legislative Affairs Team
Political News
Hoyer, Durbin Aides Named to Biden Legislative Affairs Team
November 23, 2020
by Dan McCue

WILMINGTON, Del. - President-elect Joe Biden has selected top aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin to serve in key roles on his White House legislative affairs team. Shuwanza Goff, who has been serving as Majority Leader Hoyer's floor director... Read More

The Christmas Season has Officially Arrived on Capitol Hill
In The News
The Christmas Season has Officially Arrived on Capitol Hill
November 23, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Bathed in chill sunlight and standing just yards from where work crews continue to build the platform for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, the Capitol Christmas tree was already a destination in its own right Monday as a handful of families gravitated to... Read More

Defense Analysts Caution Against U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan
Geopolitics
Defense Analysts Caution Against U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan
November 20, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Defense analysts warned Congress Friday against the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan announced this week amid indications that radical Islamists could resume terrorist attacks. They said further proof is needed that Taliban fighters would not try to seize control of Afghanistan before the Trump... Read More

Running to Lead the New Dems, DelBene Reflects on the Coalition’s Past, Promising Future
Congress
Running to Lead the New Dems, DelBene Reflects on the Coalition’s Past, Promising Future
November 20, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - During a week when newly elected members of Congress were all over Capitol Hill for their formal orientation, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., remembered how vastly different her experience was in 2012. Jay Inslee, the previous representative of Washington State's 1st Congressional District, had decided... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top