The Senate has passed a $19.1 billion bill providing disaster relief for many U.S. States and territories, including Puerto Rico.
The bill gives Puerto Rico $600 million in emergency nutritional assistance funding. It includes a requirement that previously approved $8.9 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief funding be released. It provides $300 million in additional Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. These funds can be used to cover cost-sharing requirements that have delayed rebuilding so far.
Governor Ricardo Rossello greeted the disaster bill with a statement of appreciation. “We urge the House to take swift action to approve this piece of legislation that is of vital importance to over 3.2 million Americans in Puerto Rico and countless more nationwide,” he said.
There was speculation that the bill might make it through the House and be signed before the Memorial Day recess.
However, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) blocked the bill in the House.
There had been a call for unanimous consent, but Roy was quoted as saying, “This is a very swampy thing to do — have a vote on a Friday heading into Memorial Day weekend and after we recess, when we could have done our job yesterday when we had 435 members of Congress who should be here and should vote.”
Unanimous consent was the only option for approving the bill, since most members of Congress had already left town for the holiday.
Roy also had specific concerns about some elements of the bill. However, it is expected that the bill will be approved by the House after members return on June 4th.
The president has also expressed approval of the bill, tweeting, “The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!”. He is expected to sign the bill once it is approved by the House.
The Texas Tribune, expressing shock that a Texan delayed the bill further, pointed out that the new timing might mean funds will not be disbursed until after the 2019 hurricane season.
Roy is former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).