clear
Thursday November 23rd, 2017 8:14AM

Senate advances $36.5 billion disaster relief package

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Monday gave a preliminary OK to a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that would provide Puerto Rico with a much-needed infusion of cash and keep the federal flood insurance program from running out of money to pay claims.

The 79-16 procedural vote set the stage for a final vote, most likely Tuesday.

The measure also provides $18.7 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency's rapidly dwindling emergency disaster accounts. On Monday, FEMA announced more than $500 million in aid to Puerto Rico, including $285 million to help restore power and water services to the devastated island. An additional $16 billion would permit the financially troubled federal flood insurance program to pay an influx of Harvey-related claims.

But the bill rejects requests from the powerful Texas and Florida congressional delegations for additional money to rebuild after hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, whose state's citrus industry endured significant losses during Irma, sought to add $3 billion in immediate agriculture assistance to the measure, but was denied by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said money for crop losses would be in subsequent aid measures.

Senate passage on Tuesday would send the measure to President Donald Trump for his signature.

There was urgency to move the measure swiftly — rather than add more money to it at this time — because the government's disaster response and flood insurance reserves are running out. Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said that would happen "in a matter of days" without action.

Still, members of the Texas and Florida delegations in Congress are unhappy because the measure failed to address extensive requests for additional hurricane rebuilding money. Texas, inundated by Harvey in August, requested $19 billion, while Florida sought $27 billion.

"I'm pretty disappointed with what the House sent over," Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn said last week. But later, after speaking to both Trump and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, Cornyn said he was promised that the White House would issue another disaster aid measure next month for Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. A fourth, and perhaps final, measure is likely to anchor a year-end spending bill.

"The victims of these hurricanes can continue to count on our support," said McConnell said.

Up to $5 billion of the measure's total could be used to assist Puerto Rico's central government and various municipalities that are suffering unsustainable cash shortfalls as Maria has choked off revenues and strained resources. An additional $150 million would help Puerto Rico with the 10 percent match required for FEMA disaster relief.

More than one-fourth of the island's residents don't have potable running water and only 17 percent have electricity, according to FEMA. Just 392 miles of Puerto Rico's 5,073 miles of roads are open. Conditions in the U.S. Virgin Islands are bad as well, with widespread power outages.

But Trump last week graded his response to the Puerto Rico disaster a 10 on a scale of 10.

"President Trump seems more concerned about claiming credit for a job well done than the actual situation on the ground deserves, particularly in Puerto Rico," Leahy said. "This is the hard part of governing," he added. "We dig in for the long haul, we stop patting ourselves on the back."

The measure currently before the Senate contains $577 million for wildfires in the West that forced agencies to tap other reserves for firefighting accounts and FEMA money.

Republicans delayed action last year on modest requests by President Barack Obama to combat the Zika virus and help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system. But they are moving quickly to take care of this year's alarming series of disasters, quickly passing a $15.3 billion relief measure last month and signaling that another installment is coming next month.

Damage is still being assessed and final cost estimates for recovering and rebuilding from this year's hurricane season are not in yet. Some House conservatives are becoming restive at the high price tag for the disasters, which come as the deficit is growing.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Senate advances $36.5 billion disaster relief package
The Senate Monday gave a preliminary OK to a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that would give Puerto Rico a much-needed infusion of cash and keep the federal flood insurance program from running out of money to pay claims
9:51PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Ivanka Trump says tax plan addresses needs of US families
Ivanka Trump is calling tax reform the top priority of her father's administration and something necessary to address the new realities of the modern American family
9:48PM ( 9 minutes ago )
The Latest: Marisnick won't be on Astros' roster
Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick's thumb is healed, but he won't be on World Series roster
9:44PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
New York attorney general launches probe of Weinstein Co.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a civil right investigation into The Weinstein Co. following sexual assault allegations against its co-founder, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein
8:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
US general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain
The top U.S. general says the U.S. special forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy
7:18PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump promises tax bill won't affect 401Ks
President Donald Trump has shot down a possible approach for raising revenue to finance tax cuts, promising the popular 401(k) retirement program will be untouched
6:28PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Trump shoots down retirement limit to pay for GOP tax cuts
President Donald Trump is promising there will be "no change" to tax incentives for the popular 401(k) retirement programs, GOP still looking for ways to pay for steep tax cuts
5:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
Lawmakers urge reversal after financier says visa revoked
Republican and Democratic lawmakers are asking for asking for the U.S. government to act after British-American financier William Browder said his visa was revoked
4:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
McCain critiques Trump without labeling him 'draft dodger'
Sen. John McCain is criticizing a draft system during Vietnam that allowed wealthy individuals like Donald Trump to procure doctors' excuses getting them out of serving
4:10PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
New York real estate developer buys Trump drawing at auction
A New York real estate developer and former business partner of President Donald Trump has bought a sketch of the Empire State Building drawn by Trump for $16,000 at an auction
8:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Weinstein's former assistant details harassment
The Latest: Harvey Weinstein's former assistant details alleged harassment in Financial Times interview, says she's breaking confidentiality agreement to spark debate about non-disclosure agreements
7:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
'Tyler Perry's Boo 2' scares away competition at box office
"Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" opened in first place this weekend with $21.7 million from North American theaters
6:01PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Ivanka Trump says tax plan addresses needs of US families
Ivanka Trump is calling tax reform the top priority of her father's administration and something necessary to address the new realities of the modern American family
9:48PM ( 10 minutes ago )
The Latest: Marisnick won't be on Astros' roster
Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick's thumb is healed, but he won't be on World Series roster
9:44PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic
President Donald Trump has awarded the Medal of Honor to a retired army medic from Alabama who risked his life multiple times during the Vietnam War to help wounded comrades
9:27PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Browns' Thomas having season-ending surgery, future blurry
Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas done for season with torn triceps
9:23PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Judge: Trump's health care cuts don't pose immediate threat
A federal judge says California and other states have protected consumers from the Trump administration's decision to cut off "Obamacare" health care subsidies, so people don't face an immediate threat of higher costs
9:17PM ( 41 minutes ago )