WASHINGTON – The House passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill Friday as senators continue to quietly negotiate the end to a political stalemate over emergency assistance to Puerto Rico that continues to bottle up billions for victims of floods, fires and fierce storms across the country.
The House voted 257-150, largely along party lines, mirroring a partisan dispute that has centered over an ongoing feud between President Trump and Puerto Rican leaders. Thirty-four Republicans, many from states socked by disasters such as Florida, Georgia and Iowa, joined every Democrat in voting for the bill despite a plea from President Donald Trump that they should oppose the measure.
The bill, which would send billions to victims of floods in the West, hurricanes in the Southeast and historic floods in the Midwest, now heads to the Senate where political roadblocks remain.
The House bill contains not just the $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico but also several hundred million in construction assistance to help the island rebuild from Hurricane Maria in 2017 – aid that Trump firmly opposes.
In addition, Trump is pressuring Republicans to insert $4.5 billion for a wall on the southern border – a no-go for Democrats.
After the vote, Trump congratulated Republicans for mostly holding together in opposition and predicted progress on a deal.
"We will now work out a bipartisan solution that gets relief for our great States and Farmers," he tweeted.
Great Republican vote today on Disaster Relief Bill. We will now work out a bipartisan solution that gets relief for our great States and Farmers. Thank you to all. Get me a Bill that I can quickly sign!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2019
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., who has spoken to Trump about disaster aid, said adding the issue of wall funding will only make it tougher to reach a deal.
“I don’t have a clue why this president thinks that that will somehow prompt folks to vote for this,’’ he told reporters Thursday, noting that the fight over wall funding led to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended in January. “In fact, it will set it back considerably. ‘’
The standoff already has resulted in the longest delay between a disaster and the congressional approval of assistance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes a deal can be reached before the Memorial Day recess.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Thursday negotiations with Democrats remain stalled.
"June is coming up," Shelby said. "A lot of people are hurting in the Midwest, in the South because of these disasters. It’s just too long.”
Contributing: Deborah Barfield Berry and Eliza Collins of USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House passes $19 billion in disaster aid but divide over border wall funding, help for Puerto Rico hinders deal