Local representatives split on disaster relief bill

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On Friday The House of Representatives voted on a $19 billion bill that would send federal aid to farmers, victims of hurricanes and floods, and rebuild southern military bases. 

The measure passed by a 257-150 vote over the opposition of most Republicans, who said it should also include the Trump administration’s $4.5 billion requests for stepped-up humanitarian aid and law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is facing a wave of migrants fleeing violence in Central America.

The House had passed an earlier $14 billion version of the measure in January, but the legislation has been held up in the Senate amid a fight between President Donald Trump and Democrats over aid to Puerto Rico. Trump is feuding with Democratic officials on the island and falsely claims that Puerto Rico has already received $91 billion in aid.

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to urge Republicans to vote against the bill.

“House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security,” Trump tweeted. “We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!”

Locally, Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City, voted for the bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, voted against it.    

Dunn issued the following statement on his vote:

Today, Congressman Neal Dunn (FL-02) supported the passage of H.R. 2157 – Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019, which passed the House 257 to 150. Congressman Dunn worked with the House Appropriations Committee to ensure adequate funding was included for the rebuild of Tyndall Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune. 

“While less than we worked for, this disaster supplemental is a step in the right direction. It has been over 200 days since Hurricane Michael destroyed the Panhandle and yet the resilient people in North Florida have had to suffer without adequate disaster relief from the federal government. It is our duty to help our fellow Americans in need. 

“This disaster relief bill also included my amendments to increase funding to our armed services. Our military readiness is in crisis and will continue to be if we do not provide the necessary resources to our armed services. 

“I urge the Senate to immediately take up a disaster supplemental and work with the president to provide much needed relief to those in need.”

Dunn spoke on the House floor in support of his amendment to increase Military Construction funding in FY19 for the U.S. Marine Corps up to $500 Million and the U.S. Air Force up to $1 Billion. The amendment passed unanimously in the House and was included in the final passage of the supplemental disaster relief bill that passed the House.

Gaetz issued the following statement about his vote:

“President Trump has used the full extent of his executive power to assist victims of Hurricane Michael.  The Trump Administration funded 100% of debris removal for the max-allowed 45 days, picked up a 90% federal cost share and deployed hundreds of millions of dollars for housing.
By contrast, today’s appropriations bill was a sham. Not only was the Supplemental Appropriations Actinadequate in its disaster funding, it was exceedingly wasteful in other, unrelated areas. I voted against this bill because I believe Congress should address disaster aid on its own, not coupled with additional funding for Obamacare, limitations on border security, or block grants to benefit Planned Parenthood. 
Less than 30% of the $17 billion for disaster relief will be used in Fiscal Year 2019. This spending bill is a bad deal for Florida and for American taxpayers. 
Today marks eight months since Hurricane Michael made landfall. Families and communities across Florida are still in need of relief. I am proud to have worked with Governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott, and President Trump to increase the federal cost-share limit and secure nearly a billion dollars in much-needed disaster aid for Florida. This is a real step forward. Today’s disaster package, on the other hand, is simply a Democrat wish list. 
I will continue working my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure that a better and less wasteful disaster relief bill will be passed quickly — one that will allow the people of Northwest Florida to get the assistance they deserve.”

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