House OKs $36.5 billion aid package
WASHINGTON — The House, dismissing a smattering of concern for the rising cost, approved a $36.5 billion aid package on Thursday that would provide hurricane and wildfire relief funding while bailing out the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program.
The aid package would also help Puerto Rico’s financially beleaguered government avoid running out of cash in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Conditions there remain dire, with most of the island still without power three weeks after the storm hit.
The disaster package, now awaiting consideration in the Senate, would be the second installment of aid money that Congress has approved in response to this year’s hurricanes, after a $15.3 billion relief measure in September. With the tab now more than $50 billion, lawmakers warn that much more money will still be needed. Lawmakers from Texas and Florida have already outlined expansive requests, adding up to tens of billions of dollars in total. And Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic U.S. Virgin Islands delegate to the House, complained that the package lacked aid to her devastated territory.
“I know people are concerned that not every state’s need is met, but this is, I think, a good step in the right direction,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, RN.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, urging his colleagues to vote for the bill.
The White House had submitted a request to Congress last week for a new disaster relief package topping $29 billion. (In this instance, the Trump administration and congressional leaders have shown an eagerness to provide aid without paring spending in other areas.) But hours before the House vote Thursday, President Donald Trump offered a warning on Twitter: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Travel ban challenged
California joined five other states Thursday in filing a court action seeking to block the Trump administration’s new restrictions on travelers from a handful of countries, arguing it is unconstitutionally motivated by anti-Muslim animus.
Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the top House Republican, on Thursday blasted hightax states that deliver billions to the federal government as he faced a backlash from rank-and-file GOP lawmakers over a sweeping taxcut proposal.
Barry Myers, the chief executive of the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather, is Mr. Trump’s pick to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
2020 census funds
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday asked Congress for an additional $3.3 billion to complete the 2020 census, now estimated to cost $15.6 billion.
Puzzling debt claim
Mr. Trump suggested Wednesday evening that a soaring stock market might be “in a sense” reducing the national debt, a statement that is not true.