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Good News for the Panhandle: House Finally Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Package

June 4, 2019 - 7:30am
Much Hurricane Michael debris remains uncollected
Much Hurricane Michael debris remains uncollected

A federal disaster-relief package, long sought by Florida officials and Panhandle residents recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Michael, received approval Monday from the U.S. House after three earlier attempts were blocked.

The 354-58 vote, which came after the House returned from a 10-day holiday recess, sends the $19.1 billion package to President Donald Trump. The Senate backed the measure 85-8 on May 23.

The funding package was delayed for months, as Trump fought Democrats over their push for additional funding for Puerto Rico, which continues to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017. Also, the president wanted to include money to address migrants at the border with Mexico.

The Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 and caused massive damage in the Panhandle. But as the two sides in Washington bickered, and as days became weeks and months, additional disasters occurred, from flooding in Arkansas and Iowa to tornadoes in Ohio, and the disaster-relief package ballooned from $7.8 billion.

After the Senate approved the disaster-relief bill, the House tried to pass it three times by “unanimous consent,” a move that does not require most members to be present. But Republican lawmakers blocked the bill each time while the House was in recess.

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican from Panama City, expressed frustration Monday with his GOP colleagues who blocked the measure, which includes $1.2 billion to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base, one of the storm-battered region’s biggest economic drivers.

“Some of you will say your principles require a recorded vote, even though the contents of this bill have been known for months and debated for months,” Dunn said. “In fact, we had a chance to vote on the amendments to it just two weeks ago. For those upset at the cost, OK, spending in Washington is a problem, but are you actually willing to make an empty gesture about balancing the federal budget on the backs of Americans who have lost everything? Are you willing to force the airmen of Tyndall, the Marines at Camp Lejeune to halt the work to repair their bases because they ran out of money over a month ago?”

Dunn added that the package he “hammered” Congress to approve for nearly eight months also assists Florida’s agriculture industry, which suffered nearly $1.5 billion in damages from Michael. Most of the agriculture damage was to Northwest Florida’s timber industry, which isn’t covered by federal crop insurance or other programs.

“Are we willing to bankrupt them? Because a no vote today does exactly that,” Dunn said.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement after the vote expressing thanks for the bill’s approval but also noting that the 2019 hurricane season has already begun and debris from Michael has increased the threat of wildfires.

"This disaster recovery is long-overdue --- but, better late than never," Fried said. "I’m thankful that the Panhandle communities will finally be on the path to recovery."

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Miami, said the funding package will also assist “unmet housing, business and infrastructure needs” in the region.

The funding includes $1.4 billion for Puerto Rico, including $600 million for nutritional assistance.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who was one of the three congressmen --- U.S. Reps. John Rose, R-Tenn., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky. were the others --- who blocked the bill from being approved through unanimous consent, said it was important that Congress vote on the measure.

Roy also continued to express concern with the amount being spent.

“I am still troubled we’re poised to spend $19 billion that is not paid for when we are racking up $100 million an hour in national debt,” Roy said. “At some point, before it is too late, Congress will get serious about restraining out-of-control spending. We’ve racked up approximately $24 billion in additional debt since the recess. At least today we’re voting.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., while supporting the relief package that will help more than 40 states, expressed displeasure that Congress couldn’t reach a deal to include $4 billion Trump sought for the southern border.

“Most of that money is to take care of the unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors,” Cole said. “Our Democratic friends claim they care about these young people. But they fail to provide the funds required to feed, house and provide medical care for this population. This is something that we need to look at and frankly deal with immediately.”


The delay was entirely the fault of Democrats. They put so much left-wing garbage in it that it wasn't worth passing.

Thank you for telling the truth. The Democrat party was up to their usual evil putting things into the bill to try to hurt our president and us. Finally the DNC realized that they were NEVER going to get the 2/3 majority of Senate & House required to move their trash forward.

It's amazing how much the democrats have lied about all the left-wing crap that they tried to put into this bill.

And Christopher is another confused soul or just lying because he can. The Senate passed the bill, the Republicans held it up until Monday. And the nay votes were by Republicans. If you can't tell the truth how can you expect to be taken seriously? Pathetic

Sara. Are you misinformed, confused or lying on purpose. It was Republicans. The Dems didn't add anything. That's the facts

Oops! Guess you didn't take the time to read about the poison pills the DNC put into it.

Ok poor Thomas. Let me explain this simply since either you didn't learn about the Constitution or you just don't do reading comprehension. The same bill, that passed the Senate, was finally passed by the House Monday. The Dems didn't add anything. They didn't try to add anything. If someone told you that they lied. If they didn't, you're lying. See, if the Dems had added anything it would have, under Constitutional law, have had to go back to the Senate. It was sent to the President, who after he gets back, can sign or veto it. I have great pity for people like you who lie without reason. Pathetic!

Absolutely correct. I'm so sick of the political machinations of the Democrat party.

Marilyn. Same. Republicans fault. Dems added nothing. Quit pushing lies.

Wrong! WRONG! W-R-O-N-G! Initially, Republicans in the Senate scuttled it because it included significant aid for Puerto Rico ... then, separately, TWO REPUBLICANS in the House scuttled it on technical grounds ... so, Sarah, WAKE UP! W-A-K-E-U-P! Get informed! The delay was an ENTIRELY REPUBLICAN DELAY!

The delay was entirely the fault of Republicans. The Republican run House passed a bill last year. McConnell refused to vote on it. The Dem run H passed a bill. McConnell refused to vote on it. The Senate finally passed a bill. 3 Republicans blocked it.

Thanks to President Trump for finally beating the feckless obstructionist Demoncrats and RINO's into submission. This is a win/win for the USA voters who see what the left is all about and will throw you bums out in 2020. #maga

The problem was Republicans. Including the President. The Republican run House passed a bill last year. McConnell refused to let it be voted on because Trump said he would veto. Then this year the Dem run House passed a bill. McConnell wouldn't let it be voted on because that would have given Dems a win. Then the Senate finally passed a bill. Held up 3 times by Republicans.

We finally get an excellent president, and yet the democrats are flipping their wigs at every opportunity.

So, do you just enjoy smoking Florida's Finest occasionally, or is more of a constant thing with you?

Just what color is the sky in your world?...…….As you live in fantasy land...…………......It was Chump that stalled it for months with his racist attack on PR, wall BS...…..............And Chump lost both those, which is a win-win...…...…….And the vote is in veto proof numbers so Chump really has no choice...…...….Now if Repubs could grow a pair to restrain this incompetent idiot from turning Obama's great economy into a recession and ballooning the deficit to $1T/yr, national debt repub borrowed to pay for tax cuts to corporations, the 1% you'll, your children will have to pay...……......In good times you pay down debt, infrastructure and save targeted tax, interest rate cuts for recessions. .

I'm sure you meant to say "Obama's great colostomy". Sure glad America was able to flush that POS.

Poor "Jerry in Wonderland" it's all about you and you missing the crease in Obama's pants...right? I am very concerned about your mental health Jerry because you actually wrote the words "Obama's great economy". HA HA!!!! Jerry get some help your extreme case of Trump Derangement Syndrom has eaten away most of your brain. I give you two months until your brain disconnects from your body's auto breath, heart beat regulation, and control of your bowels. Jerry get some help soon my man. JERRY JERRY JERRY can you hear me????

Typical Republican partisan jerk.

Sorry troll I can not respond to you. I'm busy trying to save my man Jerry from his TDS...JERRY JERRY put your hand on the Bible so we can make you sneeze the Devil out of you...JERRY JERRY we can save you!!!

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