WASHINGTON — A long-overdue disaster aid bill finally passed the U.S. Senate Thursday, promising $19 billion to help several states, like Florida, Georgia and Iowa, and Puerto Rico deal with the aftermath of a number of natural disasters, including Hurricanes Maria and Michael.
- $19 billion disaster aid bill finally passes U.S. Senate
- Setbacks for months due to Puerto Rico, border aid
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The Senate backed the bill with an 85-8 vote.
“Everyone up here knew the importance of getting this disaster bill done,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) in an interview with Spectrum News.
The bill comes after a months-long stalemate between Republicans and Democrats, first over funding for Puerto Rico, and then over negotiations for border aid to help deal with the influx of Central American migrants.
“We shouldn’t have to be doing this, but unfortunately the bureaucracies have found a way to malign this around the axel and stall the delivery of the money,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a key member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
President Trump says he'll sign the measure once it passes the U.S. House.
The package faced several setbacks, including the President’s reluctance to provide more aid to Puerto Rico, and more recently a White House request for more border funding.
Ultimately, lawmakers secured a commitment from the President that he would support the bill without the border funds.
“This demonstrates that Congress can get something done on a bipartisan basis. In this case, the most important part of the bill is a limitation on how much time money could be tied up by the bureaucracy once it is appropriated by the Congress and signed by the President,” Cornyn said.
The $19 billion package includes funds to repair damaged infrastructure, military bases and coast guard facilities, funds to support farmers and funds to rebuild and mitigate future disasters. It would also provide about $900 million to Puerto Rico.
The deal was reached nine days before the start of this year’s hurricane season. The stalemate over aid is something lawmakers hope won’t happen in the future.
“The fact that we got hit by a Category 5 hurricane doesn’t prevent us from getting hit again. There’s no law that prevents us from getting hit back-to-back,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Even though the House left for Memorial Day recess Thursday afternoon, they will pass the bill by unanimous consent.