Trump signs $15B disaster aid bill following House approval

Updated September 8, 2017 - 6:21 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed into law a $15 billion disaster recovery bill on Friday following passage by the House and Senate and a compromise with leading Democrats that rankled Republican lawmakers.

The president signed the bill just hours after Nevada’s entire congressional delegation voted with an overwhelming majority in the House to approve the legislation.

The House voted 316-90 to pass the bill, which included a deal the president reached with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to raise the debt ceiling and approve spending to keep the government running until December.

That compromise irked conservative GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate. All 90 votes against the disaster aid bill in the House were cast by Republicans, including some from Texas.

But many voted in support of the measure because of the devastation following Harvey. And the likelihood that more catastrophic damage could occur this week spurred many conservatives to put aside their differences and vote to deliver federal aid.

“There are a lot of moving parts in this package, with several things for anybody to criticize. At the end of the day, FEMA needs resources, and federal financial operations do not benefit from disruption,” said Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

In addition to Amodei, Nevada Democrats in the House, Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen, voted for the bill.

“Now is not the time for politics,” Titus said. “It is time to repair what’s been destroyed, assist those affected, and prepare for the future. To do any less would be inhumane and irresponsible.”

The Senate passed the bill 80-17 on Thursday. Both Nevada Sens. Dean Heller, a Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, voted for the legislation.

Rosen said the bipartisan votes are a “sign that we have not lost the ability to come together in support of our fellow Americans.”

The aid package is considered a “down payment” on disaster recovery that is expected to eclipse the $110 billion that Congress approved after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

FEMA had urged Congress to swiftly approve more funds to replenish disaster aid accounts that were expected to be depleted this weekend.

The hurricane aid in the Senate bill includes $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replenish disaster accounts depleted by Harvey, $450 million for the Small Business Authority loan program and $7.4 billion for a Community Development Block Grant program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs for 2017 disasters.

The bill also raises the debt ceiling until later this year, allowing the government to borrow money to pay financial obligations, and it continues government spending at current levels.

Those issues must be addressed by Congress later this year, setting up a showdown over entitlement spending cuts and other debt-reduction measures.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. White House correspondent Debra J. Saunders contributed to this story.

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