As natural disasters occur across the country and around the world, from wildfires to hurricanes, many people desperately need help after being displaced and their homes being obliterated. Trump, however, does not want to extend that help, claiming to CNN that the United States cannot aid Puerto Rico “forever.”
Much to the president’s dismay, legislation to provide $36.5 billion in aid for communities affected by natural disasters, including Puerto Rico, was passed in the House on Thursday. House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the government needs help Puerto Rico “begin to stand on its own two feet,” and added that the United States needs “to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy.”
The legislation was met with an abundance of support in the House, with 353 votes for the legislation, however, 69 Republicans opposed the legislation. The 69 votes against the legislation included many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Freedom Caucus carries the belief that government spending should not add to the deficit in any way. Freedom Caucus leaders, including Chairman Mark Meadows, Justin Amash, and Jim Jordan were among those who voted against the aid package.
The legislation will provide $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund. In addition, $16 billion will be included to address national flood insurance program debt, as well as $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts.
Since Puerto Rico still does not have power, leaving many residents without food, water, or other supplies, $1.27 billion will also be provided for disaster food assistance.
A leader of the Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mark Walker was also among those who voted against the legislation, citing the lack of offsets as his reasoning for doing so.
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Walker wrote:
‘Hurricane aid shouldn’t be added to the debt. That’s akin to going to the Emergency Room after an injury, putting the charges on a credit card, and then pretending that the Visa bill is never going to arrive.’
While the majority of the House GOP conference did vote in favor of the legislation, six Texas Republicans voted against the bill, including Reps. Joe Barton, Louie Gohmert, Jeb Hensarling, Kenny Marchant, John Ratcliffe and Roger Williams.
It is expected that lawmakers will be considering billions more in funds for disaster aid in the following weeks.
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