POLITICS

Congress Finally Passes $19 Billion Disaster Relief Bill

President Trump has called the aid legislation "great" and signaled that he would sign it.

Ending months of political infighting, Congress passed a disaster relief bill on Monday that will provide more than $19 billion to areas around the United States that have suffered from natural disasters.

The House of Representatives backed the appropriations measure by a vote of 354-58. The legislation has already passed the Senate and President Donald Trump has called it “great,” signaling that he will likely sign it.

Every House Democrat supported the bill, as did 132 Republicans.

“When disaster strikes, we shouldn’t let a ZIP code dictate our response, and Americans across the country have been waiting for far too long for the relief and recovery assistance they deserve,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who was a driving force behind the bill, said Monday before the vote. She noted that it reflected a bipartisan compromise between the parties.

The new disaster relief funding has been held up for months even as communities around the country have struggled to recover from a spate of hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and flooding. Trump argued with Democrats over earmarks for Puerto Rico, which is still rebuilding from the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The president claimed that the U.S. territory had received enough funding and wasted the money that was sent. 

Under the legislation, Puerto Rico will get $600 million for the island’s food stamp program and another $300 million for recovery efforts.

Trump and Republican lawmakers had also tried to lump in some $4.5 billion in funding for his efforts to secure the southern border, but that plan did not move forward.

The beleaguered bill was held up three times by individual Republican congressmen over the past few weeks. House lawmakers had attempted to pass the legislation by unanimous consent while the chamber was out for the Memorial Day recess, but the stonewallers voiced a trio of frustrations and said they would not support the measure.

CONVERSATIONS