With the U.S. House scheduled to begin debate Friday morning on a $17 billion relief bill for Americans hit by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and other disasters, President Donald Trump urged Republicans in the House to oppose the measure, as Mr. Trump again publicly complained Thursday about the level of disaster aid given by Congress to the island of Puerto Rico.
"House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill," the President tweeted on Thursday evening, hours after he had denounced the amount of money spent so far on aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The President again claimed - incorrectly - that Congress had already sent Puerto Rico $91 billion in aid, making the argument that Democrats were more concerned about helping people in a Caribbean territory than on the U.S. Mainland.
Congress has approved $41 billion for Puerto Rico, but the island has received just $13 billion in disaster relief from the Trump Administration.
"And now the Democrats are trying to hold up the money - from Georgia, from South Carolina, from Alabama, to Florida," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. "They're trying to hold it up. They're hurting Florida."
"They want to give Puerto Rico more money," said Mr. Trump of Democrats.
The House bill includes $600 million in food aid for the island.
House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security. Up for vote tomorrow. We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2019
The President's call to oppose funding in the bill would put a number of GOP lawmakers on the spot - since the plan includes several hundred million dollars to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as well as money to help farmers in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas who were devastated by Hurricane Michael.
The plan also includes money which would help the Army Corps of Engineers deal with levee breaches in the Midwest, and continue to aid people hit by wildfires in California.
While the President urged further negotiations, talks in the Senate have gone on for months with no resolution - mainly because of the President's opposition to any more money for Puerto Rico, and as Senators went home on Thursday, there was no indication that any breakthrough was near in talks on a disaster bill.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been trying to forge a deal since the House approved a $14 billion disaster measure back in mid-January.
But he told reporters every day this week that a final agreement continued to be elusive.
"I think this has gone a long time - too long," Shelby told reporters.
His assessment on Thursday afternoon was a familiar one.
Richard Shelby’s daily update on the disaster relief bill: still stalled— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) May 9, 2019
After waiting for weeks and weeks, House Democrats simply decided to pass a second disaster bill, in hopes it would create some momentum on a disaster deal.
"Use this bill to break the logjam in the Senate," said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL).
But with the President open calling for GOP lawmakers to oppose the House bill, it raised questions as to whether anything could get agreed to before lawmakers leave on a Memorial Day break.