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Trump again objects to aid for Puerto Rico in disaster dispute

Published: Monday, May 06, 2019 @ 3:56 PM

With the House ready to vote later this week on a $17 billion disaster relief bill from Democrats for victims of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, President Donald Trump on Monday made clear again that he thinks too much money has gone to help Puerto Rico recover from severe hurricane damage in 2017, a dispute which has held up Senate action on billions in relief money for several months.

On Twitter Monday, the President again incorrectly said that Congress had given Puerto Rico $91 billion in aid - lawmakers have approved $41 billion in aid for Puerto Rico for hurricane damage in 2017 - and of that amount, only about $13 billion has actually been sent to the U.S. island by the Trump Administration.

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"Now the Democrats are saying NO Relief to...Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and others unless much more money is given to Puerto Rico," the President wrote on Twitter, as his allies in the Senate tried to pin the blame on Democrats.

"It’s been 208 days since Hurricane Michael devastated Florida’s Panhandle and Southwest Georgia and a disaster funding bill is still in limbo," said Senators Rick Scott (R-FL) and David Perdue (R-GA) in a letter to Senate Democrats, in which they urged action on a relief bill.

But Democrats made clear that as long as the President was blocking additional help for Puerto Rico, there would be no deal, leaving the Senate deadlocked for weeks.

The back and forth escalated as President Trump planned to fly on Wednesday to the Florida Panhandle for a campaign rally, in which it's likely President Trump will talk not only about aid for the region, but also rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The House is scheduled to vote later this week on a $17.2 billion disaster funding bill which includes $600 million in specific food assistance programs for Puerto Rico, along with a variety of emergency funding for farmers and ranchers in the southeast.

The House bill includes $400 million to rebuild Tyndall - Republicans hope to force a vote in the House later this week to increase that to over $700 million, as the Air Force has stopped recovery work at the base, because of a lack of Congressional action.

This would be the second time in 2019 that Democrats in the House have approved a disaster aid bill; back in January, the House voted in favor of $14 billion in aid - extra money has now been added to deal with recent floods in the Midwest, and tornadoes in the south.

One note about the disaster relief fight - despite all of the protests from GOP lawmakers about the lack of action, the Trump Administration has never officially asked Congress for extra aid to deal with the damage from Hurricane Michael, floods in the Midwest, or wildfires in California.

The political dispute over aid for Puerto Rico is also getting some attention from Major League Baseball - as the manager of the Boston Red Sox is boycotting his team's visit to the White House later this week, over how the Trump Administration has dealt with Puerto Rico.

Speaking to reporters in Chicago over the weekend, Alex Cora confirmed that his concerns with the response of the Trump Administration to damage from Hurricane Maria led him to change his mind about going to the White House.

"We still have a long ways to go," Cora said of the recovery efforts on his home island.

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