Dems playing politics with disaster relief funds for Midwest, Republicans say
Environmental restoration employees deploy a containment boom from a boat on Offutt Air Force Base in Neb., as a precautionary measure for possible fuel leaks in the flooded area. (U.S. Air Force via AP)
Senate Republicans on Monday blasted their Democratic colleagues for blocking a disaster relief bill that was intended to help Midwestern regions affected by flooding because it supposedly didn’t go far enough to help Puerto Rico.
The bill, originally sponsored by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., proposed $13.5 billion in relief funding for areas recently hit by natural disasters. The 44-49 vote fell short of a majority, and far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
Democrats want to add almost $700 million more to unlock further disaster aid for Puerto Rico and several states, including help to rebuild badly damaged water systems. Democrats are also trying to force the Trump administration to release billions of dollars in rebuilding funds that have already been approved.
Republicans accused Democrats of playing partisan politics.
“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,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the proposed funding “would not have left anyone in the lurch from Iowa to Puerto Rico.” He accused the Democrats of being hypocritical for decrying “Washington political games while on the campaign trail in Iowa, but then return to the Capitol only to play political games themselves.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of holding up relief funds and argued that another relief package passed in the House earlier this year would be vetoed by the president.
"This is no time for my colleagues across the aisle to prioritize a political fight with the president ahead of the urgent needs of communities across America,” McConnell said before the vote Monday.
"This is no time for my colleagues across the aisle to prioritize a political fight with the president ahead of the urgent needs of communities across America.”— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
FILE: An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base and surrounding areas in Nebraska affected by flood waters. (Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake/U.S. Air Force via AP)
Trump fired off a round of tweets Monday in which he criticized Puerto Rico’s government for incompetence and corruption.
“The people of Puerto Rico are GREAT, but the politicians are incompetent or corrupt. Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works.”
Trump said last week that his administration had sent $91 billion to Puerto Rico, while only $29 billion had gone to Texas and $12 billion to Florida for the hurricane.
"(Puerto Rico) has to spend the money wisely," Trump said. "They don't know how to spend the money and they're not spending it wisely."
The path forward is not clear, but a leading option is for the Senate to pass a much more narrowly drawn bill simply to get the issue into a House-Senate conference committee. House Democrats insist the talks must produce a final measure with help for Puerto Rico.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.