Senators deadlock over disaster relief distribution


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Disaster relief for Midwest flooding victims has hit a political roadblock on Capitol Hill.

Democrats and Republicans are at odds over how much money should go to Puerto Rico, which was slammed by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and that has stalled the $13.5 billion package in the Senate.

“Grain gone,” Reublican Sen. Joni Ernst said, describing the aftermath of historic flooding in her state of Iowa and elsewhere along the Missouri River. “It is devastating and it is heartbreaking.”

She blamed Democrats for blocking the bill.

“Shame on them,” she said.

Her fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says there’s no reason to delay.

“Disasters are usually noncontroversial that they ought to be funded because the law requires it,” he said.

The relief package diverted additional money to Puerto Rico to the Midwest flooding victims, which Democrats aren’t willing to abide. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the people of Puerto Rico shouldn’t suffer more because of the Midwest flooding.

“This legislation should help the get the job done, not set them back,” he said on the Senate floor.

Democrats are pushing a plan that has more money for both the Midwest and Puerto Rico, but President Donald Trump has already come out against it, arguing the island has received more than enough already.

Grassley said Puerto Rico still has unspent federal disaster relief money.

“When that money’s all spent, there will be more money if there’s not enough there,” he said.

The need in his state, he said, is urgent.

“Iowans don’t have time to wait, but the money is going to be there,” he said.

The fate of the bill is unclear. Its author says he is working on figuring out the next steps.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has more than enough money to continue providing aid.

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