WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six months since Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle, but a disaster relief bill is still in limbo on Capitol Hill. A group of bipartisan lawmakers came together Tuesday to call for Congress to act.
- Lawmakers want Congress to act on disaster relief bill
- Bill hung up over how much aid should go to Puerto Rico
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Disaster bills often pass with wide bipartisan support, but not this one — it’s hung up in a dispute between President Donald Trump and Democrats over how much aid should go to Puerto Rico.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), and Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) — all from states impacted by natural disasters — are calling for immediate action. They are highlighting how the lack of funding is impacting their states.
Scott emphasized that the funding standoff is hurting military readiness. Tyndall Air Force Base, severely damaged during Hurricane Michael, is counting on some of those disaster relief dollars.
“We are working to rebuild Tyndall. They have spent from my understanding, over $400 million, not having a bill, thinking there would be a bill that happens. Secretary Wilson explained to me that what is going to happen the first of May, is they are going to stop all new projects at Tyndall,” Scott said.
“If they don’t have the right assets, if we can’t get Tyndall rebuilt, it impacts the ability for America to defend itself,” he continued.
Florida lawmakers on both sides say Congress must come together and pass this bill as soon as possible.
“Some of us went to the White House right after recess. We believe we made progress then, but we have to have a bill that the President is willing to sign. If we have things in the bill that is going to prevent the President from signing, we didn’t do our job,” Scott said.
“I don’t think pointing fingers is helpful. I think what we need to do is fight for the American people, in this case, the people of the Panhandle of Florida, and I’m sure we will come down on that view very shortly,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Florida).
It is still unclear whether President Trump will support a bill that would give more than $600 million to Puerto Rico.
Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee said they haven’t yet considered trying to attach the aid to other pieces of legislation, but they also did not rule that option out.