On Monday (April 1), a measure was defeated in the Senate to provide disaster relief for Puerto Rico. Democrats voted against the bill, which they say reflects the White House’s continued disregard for the island.
The bill included $13.45 billion in disaster aid for states including Nebraska and Iowa that have had extreme weather, reports The Washington Post. Puerto Rico, which sustained more than $9 billion in damages from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, was allotted $600 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also called food stamps) funding from the bill—but no money for rebuilding.
Earlier this year, the Democrat-controlled House passed a recovery bill that provided additional money for Puerto Rico, but did not include aid to other states. A Senate procedural vote was also held yesterday to advance that bill, but it was rejected by Republicans.
Reports The New York Times:
Opposition came from both parties for different reasons. Most Republicans refused to endorse a recovery bill passed this year by the House. They cited Mr. Trump’s opposition to the bill’s Puerto Rico funding, as well as their own concerns that the bill lacked money for Midwestern states, like Iowa and Nebraska, that have since been devastated by flooding and tornadoes.
For their part, Democrats balked at a separate measure drafted by Senate Republicans that included the money for the Midwest, arguing that a proposed $600 million in nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico was not enough. The Republican legislation had no chance in the House.
A number of the Democrats who voted against the measure said it was a way to show their frustration with how the White House has handled recovery efforts for the island. “We have a moral obligation to defeat this legislation and send a clear message to the president that we will not allow him to continue treating our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico as second-class citizens,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told ThinkProgress prior to the vote.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday: “The administration’s response to this catastrophe can be summed up in two words: cruel, nasty.”
Yet President Donald Trump has doubled down on his response to the island, tweeting yesterday, “The Democrats today killed a bill that would have provided great relief to farmers and yet more money to Puerto Rico despite the fact that Puerto Rico has already been scheduled to receive more hurricane relief funding than any ‘place’ in history.”
He also wrote that Puerto Ricans “are great,” but “their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess—nothing works.”
The president’s messages did not mention that hundreds of millions of dollars that have been allocated to Puerto Rico through Congress have not yet been released.
Senate Democrats intend to propose a bill today (April 2) that would provide billions of dollars to help Iowa, Nebraska, and Puerto Rico, according to The New York Times.