The Senate on Thursday passed a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill that will enable work to continue at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The measure succeeded on 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 Senate approved the bill by an 85-8 vote. House lawmakers have left for the Memorial Day recess. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the chamber would try to pass the bill by voice vote Friday, but one congressman, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, objected, pushing the vote back until after lawmakers return, which is expected June 3, the Washington Post reported.
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.”
Military officials have said they need about $10 billion to recover from the damage from hurricanes and floods, and the bill that was passed will provide a down payment on that.
The Marine Corps wants $3.6 billion to repair the damage from Hurricane Florence and the flooding that followed. More than 900 buildings at Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point were affected by the September disaster.
Tyndall, which was flattened in October when Hurricane Michael roared directly onto the base as a Category 5 storm, needs $4.5 billion. New reconstruction work at Tyndall ended May 1 due to lack of funds, affecting 121 planned projects.
The Air Force needs another $420 million for recovery work at Offutt, which was inundated in March after the Missouri and Platte rivers breached nearby levees. Work there would have ended July.
Air Force officials have said they need $1.2 billion in fiscal 2019 and $3.7 billion in fiscal 2020 and 2021 for recovery at Tyndall and Offutt.
The relief measure would also 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.
After weeks of fighting, Democrats 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. Talks were closely held, but aides said liberal and Hispanic forces among House Democrats could not come to terms with administration demands.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Democrats “insisted that Puerto Rico get the aid that it needed, along with the rest of America, and it is.”
All sides agree that another bill of more than $4 billion will be needed almost immediately to refill nearly empty agency accounts to care for migrants, though Democrats are fighting hard against the detention facilities requested by Trump.
Part of the rush to get the bill through without the refugee aid was to get politically exhausted lawmakers out of Washington, but Republicans controlling the Senate were determined to get disaster aid completed or face the wrath of frustrated constituents.