House OKs $36.5 bil­lion aid pack­age

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

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.

Tax-re­form ten­sion

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.

NOAA nom­i­nee

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.

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