Disaster relief bill advances

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill by a broad bipartisan vote, but only after Democrats insisted on tossing out President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion request to handle an unprecedented influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The relief measure would deliver money to Southern states suffering from last fall’s hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods and fire-ravaged rural California, among others. Puerto Rico would also get help for hurricane recovery.

The Senate approved the bill by an 85-8 vote. House lawmakers have left for the Memorial Day recess, but the chamber probably will try to pass the bill by voice vote today, said a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Trump said he will sign it even though money to deal with the border has been removed.

“I didn’t want to hold that up any longer,” Trump said. “I totally support it.”

Much of the money would go to Trump strongholds such as the Florida Panhandle, rural Georgia and North Carolina, and Iowa and Nebraska. Several military facilities would receive money to rebuild, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

Disaster aid bills are invariably bipartisan, but this round bogged down.

After weeks of fighting, Democrats bested Trump and won further aid to Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory slammed by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017. Trump has feuded with the island’s Democratic officials and has repeatedly misstated that Puerto Rico has received much more aid than it actually has.

Trump originally wanted no money for Puerto Rico before agreeing to $605 million for its food stamp program. But ultimately, Democrats said they secured about $1.4 billion, including money to help Puerto Rico’s cash-poor government meet matching requirements for further disaster rebuilding efforts.

Talks this week over Trump’s border request broke down, however, over conditions Democrats wanted to place on money to provide care and shelter for asylum-seeking Central American migrants.

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