Following an unusually devastating hurricane season (plus current wildfires) and President Trump threatening to pull FEMA and the military out of Puerto Rico, the House of Representatives has approved a $36.5 billion disaster aid package for the victims of the recent disasters. The bill, which passed 353 to 69 will go to the Senate, which returns from a recess next week. House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke with reporters before the vote:
“We think it’s critical that we pass this legislation this week to get the people of California the help they need, to support the victims, and also to help the communities still recovering and dealing with the problems with the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.”
However, some conservative House members, like Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, weren’t comfortable passing the bill without knowing where offsets would come from. “You don’t just write off debt,” he told reporters. “Someone is going to pay the bill. So we got to make sure the taxpayer isn’t continually stuck with bills out of thin air.”
The new relief aid comes a month after Congress passed $15 billion in emergency relief aid following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While this aid package is larger than the one the White House originally requested, it was increased to include a $4.9 billion loan program that can be used by Puerto Rico for initiatives like infrastructure improvement.