Senate Republicans criticized Democrats on Monday for blocking a disaster relief bill that proposed $13.5 billion in funding for Midwestern regions that were recently affected by natural disasters. According to Fox News, Democrats blocked the bill — which fell short of a majority in a 44-49 vote — because it didn’t provide enough aid to Puerto Rico.
Although Democrats want almost $700 million more in disaster relief for Puerto Rico and other states, they also want the Trump administration to release billions of dollars of funds already approved for rebuilding, which Republicans suggest is an example of partisan politics.
Senator Marco Rubio claims that playing politics is harming communities that need aid.
“Disaster funding should not be a partisan issue, yet for months, Congress has repeatedly played politics with much-needed aid at the expense of local communities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and around the nation that are struggling to recover.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that President Donald Trump would veto an earlier relief package passed in the House if Democrats continue to stall relief funds. He claims that now is not the time for Democrats to “prioritize a political fight with the president ahead of the urgent needs of communities across America.”
According to The New York Times, Republicans are already gearing up to turn the issue of disaster relief into a 2020 presidential campaign issue, as highlighted by Senator Charles E. Grassley’s comments.
“To my colleagues across the aisle who have been spending a lot of time in Iowa lately as presidential candidates, how are you going to look Iowans in the eye and justify a vote against moving this disaster relief bill ahead?”
3 Republicans join all Democrats in blocking action on Senate disaster relief bill backed by President Trump https://t.co/VqUJngRguG— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 1, 2019
But Democrats believe that Republican opposition to their demands are insulting to Puerto Rico, suggesting that the territory needs more funding to properly rebuild after the back-to-back hurricanes it experienced in 2017. The proposed bill provides $600 million in nutritional assistance, which Democrats claim is not enough.
Trump has been putting pressure on Democrats to provide their support for the bill despite their claims that it lacks the funds necessary to truly help Puerto Rico. He claims that the bill will provide much-needed help for farmers as well as Puerto Rico, adding that the territory has received more relief funding than any other “place” in history.
Trump also criticized Puerto Rico’s government, suggesting that it’s a “mess” and that they don’t spend their relief aid wisely. He claims that his administration has sent $91 billion to Puerto Rico and compared this to the $29 billion that went to Texas and $12 billion to Florida for the hurricane. Despite this difference in the amount of aid received, a study published in BMJ Global Health claims the response for these states was faster.