The Republican-dominated Senate does not appear to offer much support to the USA territory of Puerto Rico after it was ravaged by two major hurricanes followed by earthquakes. One of those hurricanes hovered right over on the island for hours on end. Democrats took an emergency aid package with heavy tax breaks through the House on Friday, but another disaster loomed.
Republicans argued that there was plenty of money already headed that way. They noted that some of the bill’s provisions were not related to disaster relief. Most clearly related to the bill’s survival was that Donald Trump was not interested in supporting the $21 billion bill and threatened to veto it.
In the House, 237 Democrats for it while 161 Republicans voted against it. There were 17 Republicans who crossed over to vote for it.
The ranking member of the House Rules Committee Tom Cole (R-OK) said that he does not think the Senate would consider it. according to The Roll Call:
‘Until we answer some questions, the administration’s not going to sign it.’
Puerto Rico has a resident commissioner who was not able to vote. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon was serious about obtaining federal support for the islands after it sustained unimaginable hurricanes damage in 2017. She suggested an amendment to add $170 million for nutrition assistance to the people of Puerto Rico. It passed by a voice vote.
The bill intended to make the rum excise tax “cover-over” larger and permanent. It sent Peurto Rico and the Virgin Islands money for the rum made in the islands to the tune of $1.7 billion. This legislation was not related to natural disaster money, but would likely go that way, especially after a series of earthquakes hit the area.
Spokesperson of the Senate Finance Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA), who would have to sign off on it, sent an email said that he went along with Trump:
‘Unfortunately, Senate Finance Committee Republicans were not consulted as House Democrats hurriedly cobbled together their bill.’
González-Colón agreed with some Republicans who argued that these tax provision should not be attached to an emergency bill. However, she said:
‘[They are] vital for the long-term recovery of the island.’
House Appropriations Chair Nita M. Lowey, (D-NY) said that people needed a fast-response source of funding:
‘In recent weeks, thousands of families in Puerto Rico were forced from their homes, schools were flattened, roads and infrastructure were severely damaged. While President [Donald] Trump has finally released some of the aid Congress appropriated … more support is clearly needed.’
One Ways and Means Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) said the bill to help U.S. territories and possessions included most of the expanded earned income and child tax credits:
‘These tax issues really have nothing to do with disaster and they’re not a one-time thing. They go on as continuing benefits.’
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