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House passes US$19.1 billion disaster relief, Trump opposed

House passes US$19.1 billion disaster relief, Trump opposed

A broken traffic light, a street sign and branches lie on the street after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/Files

WASHINGTON: The US House on Friday (May 10) approved US$19.1 billion in disaster relief to help hard-hit communities like Puerto Rico, but President Donald Trump opposes the package which faces party bickering over funding.

On the eve of the vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber, Trump urged Republicans to reject the "BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill" and continue negotiating on the emergency package aimed at providing recovery assistance to Americans affected by storms, wildfires and floods.

But in a rebuke of Trump, 34 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure, which cleared the House of Representatives 257-150.

At a Florida rally on Thursday, Trump wrongly said Puerto Rico, a US territory, had already received US$91 billion in disaster aid in the wake of deadly 2017 hurricanes that devastated the island.

Puerto Rico has been promised about half that amount and spent just US$11 billion, according to a Washington Post fact check.

House Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey said Americans "can't afford to wait any longer" for the relief, which would fund activities like infrastructure development, rural community assistance, and disaster damage mitigation in Puerto Rico and states like California, Florida, North and South Carolina, and Iowa.

"The president's personal contempt for Puerto Rico must no longer be allowed to stand in the way of critical disaster relief," she said.

After the vote Trump expressed optimism about a deal.

"We will now work out a bipartisan solution that gets relief for our great States and Farmers," he tweeted.

The measure heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where lawmakers have struggled to break the logjam.

The chamber is grappling with whether to add to the disaster package Trump's latest request of US$4.5 billion in emergency border security funding amid what the White House is calling an increasingly "dire" immigration crisis along the southern border.

Source: AFP/ec

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