As California burned and Puerto Rico struggled to get the lights turned back on, the House approved another $36.5 billion in disaster aid.
Those funds will be distributed between scorched wine country, hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and Florida, and an emergency infusion of cash for FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, whose reserves have been drained by a string of natural disasters.
The aid package passed 353-69, with all the no votes coming from Republicans concerned that the bill’s hefty price tag wasn’t being offset. Among the nays were Minnesota Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis.
“Unless changes are made, our country will continue to lurch from disaster to disaster as programs like the National Flood Insurance Program remain deep in debt, and our forest management practices stay one step behind — instead of ahead — of the next wildfire,” Emmer, who had also voted against an earlier $15 billion aid package for Hurricane Harvey, said in a statement after the vote.
In a statement, Lewis said he supported disaster aid, but not some of the other big-ticket items that came packaged with it.
“I could not support, in an era of a $20 trillion national debt, a write-off of $16 billion of the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt in yet another bailout with absolutely no reforms or offsets in the spending,” Lewis said.
Rep. Erik Paulsen broke with his Republican colleagues from Minnesota to support the bill: “It was clear with FEMA running out of resources that action needed to be taken to help those affected by these disasters,” he said.