At the end of last week, the U.S. House passed a $19 billion supplemental disaster relief package with funds to help Puerto Rico, Florida and other parts of the country hit by hurricanes and other disasters in recent years.
The bill passed 257-150 on a mostly party lines vote though more than 30 Republicans joined the Democrats in passing the bill. President Donald Trump has stressed his opposition to the proposal, insisting it will hurt “our states, farmers and border security” and maintaining that relief efforts to Puerto Rico have been mismanaged.
But if party lines mostly held up in the House, the same wasn't true about the Florida delegation. Every Democrat in the Florida delegation backed the proposal and they were joined by four Republicans from the Sunshine State.
“Americans struggling to recover from recent hurricanes, floods and fires have had to wait far too long for federal assistance,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla. “We need to stop the political bickering and do what’s right for the American people, from the Panhandle to Puerto Rico. The House has acted twice now. Opposition to support for Puerto Rico must end. American lives are on the line, let’s stop the poisonous politics and do the right thing for all Americans.”
“It has been seven months since Hurricane Michael ravaged North Florida, and the thousands of families left in its aftermath should no longer have to wait for our assistance,” said U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla. “This long overdue disaster package would provide residents with the necessary relief they deserve.
“This is the second disaster package the House has passed – the first has been sitting in the Republican-controlled Senate since January. It is way past time to act. We are weeks away from Florida’s 2019 Hurricane Season and our families cannot withstand another beating without this much-needed aid,” Lawson added.
Most Republicans in the Florida delegation voted against the bill.
“We are two hundred days and counting since Hurricane Michael hit Florida and there are still Floridians in need,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla. “The bill that we voted on today was nothing more than a spending wish list for Democrats and it had little to do with disaster relief.”
Yoho insisted that only a “tiny portion” of the funds “would go towards aiding those affected by Hurricane Michael.” The North Florida Republican insisted he “like the Trump administration, could not in good conscience support this bill” and called for a “stand-alone bill” on disaster relief.
“Again, instead of helping Floridians with disaster relief, Democrats are playing partisan politics,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., on Friday. “I stood with President Trump and voted no on this bill. H.R. 2157 was advertised as a savior to disaster relief and a necessary step to funding key emergency response programs, but it was really a blank check full of wasteful spending to Planned Parenthood, a serious threat to our nation’s growing deficit, and it would not have given a single cent to the state of Florida. I pledged throughout my campaign to address America’s growing debt and wasteful government spending and stand up for Florida values and today, I kept that promise.
“This bill would have extended the National Flood Insurance Program without reform, barred funds from being used for construction of the much-needed border wall, and unnecessarily added money to a Disaster Relief Fund that already contains $29 billion. All this, with absolutely no offset to address the cost—significantly adding to the national debt. Make no mistake, I will make sure that those areas in Florida ravaged by recent hurricanes will have the support they need to rebuild, but we can do so in a responsible way,” Steube added. “This bill was a bad deal for Florida and I’m proud to have voted against it to stand up for our Florida values.”
Still, 34 House Republicans, including Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn and Ross Spano, joined the Democrats in supporting the proposal.
“While less than we worked for, this disaster supplemental is a step in the right direction. It has been over 200 days since Hurricane Michael destroyed the Panhandle and yet the resilient people in North Florida have had to suffer without adequate disaster relief from the federal government. It is our duty to help our fellow Americans in need,” Dunn said on Friday. “This disaster relief bill also included my amendments to increase funding to our armed services. Our military readiness is in crisis and will continue to be if we do not provide the necessary resources to our armed services.
“I urge the Senate to immediately take up a disaster supplemental and work with the president to provide much needed relief to those in need,” Dunn added.
More than 20 members of the House did not vote including U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla.