President Trump urged Republicans to vote against a disaster relief package which is to be considered in the House of Representatives today:
The White House sees two significant issues with the Democrat-led proposal: the border security money isn’t directed to address migrants and there is too much money going to Puerto Rico.
A summary of the $17 billion aid package can be found at a House appropriations web page.
The bill would provide long-delayed disaster relief funds for the California wildfires, for flooding damage in Midwestern states, and hurricane relief funds for Florida and other Southern states, in addition to further money for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction efforts. It would also provide funding for reconstruction of military bases and national security assets in the areas affected.
The amount of money being spent on Puerto Rican reconstruction is immense, but it would still be far less than the amount which was projected, in a report to Congress, which would be needed to bring the island nation – a territory of the United States – back to its original status ($139 Billion) and less even than its original projection needed to bring it to a basic level of stability ($94 Billion). The typical purpose of disaster relief funds is to do exactly that: allow an area to recover to a position where the locals can effectively rebuild by themselves.
Instead, Puerto Rico has been kept on a subsistence level, dealing with costs for repairs and supplies which prevent them from re-establishing the basic commerce and production which would allow them to grow and regain self-sufficiency. News organizations have covered the issue, such as the Miami Herald’s piece on The Forgotten Island.
A similar problem, on a much smaller scale, has been seen in Florida’s panhandle, where the President attended a rally earlier this week. During that rally, he pledged millions in disaster relief and blamed Democrats for failing to provide funds. The pledge was made at Panama City, where Hurricane Michael struck. Towns in the vicinity have all faced difficulties since the disaster, but their level of recovery have varied greatly.
At the first opportunity to provide aid to Florida since his rally, the President is urging Republicans to vote against it, citing falsely inflated amounts spent on Puerto Rico – which, even if they were true, still wouldn’t meet the baseline for recovery.
There are valid concerns about emergency appropriations. They are notorious for being laden with pork projects, for example. At a time when the U.S. government is spending freely, fiscal propriety should be its own form of relief.
There are no indications such concerns are paramount in this case. The President and the Republicans have been spending as freely as Democrats for two years. Rather, the focus seems to be personal. As stated at the rally:
“That’s Puerto Rico. They don’t like me,” Trump said, holding up a piece of paper that appeared to depict a chart representing the amount of aid given to Puerto Rico compared to other areas affected by natural disasters, lamenting that too much had already been allocated to them. “They complained they want more money,” he added.NBC News