Senate Democrats blocked a $13.5 billion Republican disaster aid bill, contending it lacks enough aid for Puerto Rico, leaving the Senate without an immediate path forward to provide relief for areas hit by recent Midwest floods, Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and California wildfires.
The aid package, amended last week by Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, would give Puerto Rico $600 million in nutrition assistance, but it doesn’t contain the same funds the House authorized to bolster flood protection and repair the electrical grid. The Senate failed to advance its version of the bill Monday on a 44-49 vote.
Senators then voted on the House version, which was blocked by Republicans on a 46-48 vote.
Second-ranking Senate Republican John Thune said he expects Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “will sit down and try to figure out a path forward.”
Republicans say the aid package should be confined to 2018 and 2019 disasters while leaving recovery for Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico in 2017 to be sorted out another time. Given President Donald Trump’s opposition to any more aid for the island, Republicans say the $600 million for nutrition already represents a compromise.
McConnell said the House version would be vetoed by the president, so Senate Democrats should accept the Republican offer. He accused Democrats of holding up relief for other disasters, including Midwestern states hit by floods last month.
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