Trump GOP Still Screwing Puerto Rico Like It's Mexico Or Something
In a move nobody would have ever predicted after many Republicans opposed Hurricane Sandy relief to punish New York liberals in 2013, the nominally bipartisan process of approving disaster aid has turned into an ugly game of Dems trying to help people and Republicans sucking up to Donald Trump's latest racist whims. You see, since Donald Trump thinks Puerto Rico has had it far too easy following his WONDERFUL handling of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the Senate failed to pass either of two competing disaster aid bills yesterday, delaying money that would have paid for reconstruction of areas hit hard in the last year, delaying badly needed funds even longer. On the upside, at least it gave Trump the chance to lie about Puerto Rico some more!
There were two disaster bills up in the Senate. One, sponsored by Republican Senator David Perdue, was a $13.45 billion measure to pay for a whole bunch of disasters:
[A]n earthquake in Alaska; volcanoes in Hawaii; California's devastating wildfires; last year's hurricanes that hit North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and the central Northern Mariana islands; the 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico; tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia; and flooding in Iowa, Nebraska and other Midwestern states.
The Puerto Rico portion of Perdue's bill, however, only provided $600 million to restore a supplemental boost to the island's food stamp program, an emergency increase that expired starting in March, leading to cutbacks that have left 1.3 percent of the territory's residents struggling. Democrats withheld support from the Perdue bill because that's not nearly enough to meet Puerto Rico's needs -- that $600 billion won't even last past September of this year.
Instead, Democrats pushed a bill already passed by the House, which would have included the food stamp money but also hundreds of millions of dollars in other reconstruction aid. Republicans, following orders Trump gave in a meeting with them last week, voted against that bill, because Trump has said that beyond the food stamp funds, he doesn't think Puerto Rico deserves "another single dollar" in appropriations.
The House-passed legislation also included $849 million in Environmental Protection Agency funding for Puerto Rico, as well as a measure that would ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency picks up the tab for reconstruction projects on the island, as the federal government did after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
To add to the partisan nastiness, the Republicans insisted they simply couldn't support the House bill because it didn't include any help for farmers hit by flooding in the Midwest, because that version was written before those floods occurred. Difficult to pay for a disaster that hadn't yet happened.
Funny thing there, as the Washington Post points out: Democrats actually tried to amend the House bill to add funding for the Midwest flooding on Monday, but Republicans voted it down. Shame on those nasty Dems for not helping Midwest farmers -- because Rs wouldn't let them.
Last night, Trump took to the Twitters to flat-out lie about the disaster bills and to insist Puerto Rico doesn't deserve any money -- while lying about how much disaster assistance the territory has received:
The Democrats today killed a Bill that would have provided great relief to Farmers and yet more money to Puerto Ric… https://t.co/SX45v3igaS— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1554173420.0
....are GREAT, but the politicians are incompetent or corrupt. Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida… https://t.co/oBbjFdtdAG— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1554174704.0
....the crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan have done such a poor job of bringing the Island back to health.… https://t.co/eD5mRgRMaK— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1554176309.0
Nope. Puerto Rico hasn't received anything like $91 billion in aid, although Trump repeated that figure again this morning while insisting, "The best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump." Thing is, nobody knows where Trump got the idea that Puerto Rico has received that amount of help. It could be he's thinking of one estimate of the amount of damage done by Hurricane Maria, or of Governor Ricardo Rosselló's first request for disaster assistance, which was $94.4 billion, but in reality, the Post has only identified about $15 billion in direct appropriations so far. In addition, the Post says,
Last October, the director of the federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's spending estimated an eventual investment of $82 billion, which is a bit closer to the mark but which hasn't yet been received.
And again, it's anybody's guess where Trump pulled his number from, and no one wants to get close enough to the smelly thing to do a DNA test on it.
To top it all off, on MSNBC this morning, White House spox Hogan Gidley twice referred to "Puerto Rico" as "that country," although he later insisted that was merely a slip of the tongue, like when you mean to say "US citizens" but ACCIDENTALLY say "those Mexicans or whatever."
Discussing Trump lashing out at Puerto Ricans and complaining they've received too much money, White House spokespe… https://t.co/omjiZd2wD7— Justin Baragona (@Justin Baragona) 1554215471.0
Also, "Hogan Gidley" is a made-up name from a cyberpunk comic book or maybe a Flannery O'Connor story.
In the meantime, now that both disaster bills have stalled out in the Senate, it's unclear how any of it will move forward unless Trump can be persuaded to drop his opposition to helping a bunch of brown people who didn't even vote for him. Maybe Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi could tell him the increased help for Puerto Rico would include building a wall on the border between Puerto Rico and Mexico.
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