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Bay News 9: Disaster Bill benefitting Florida Panhandle Delayed in House

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Billions in aid will head in the direction of Americans struggling after several natural disasters — including in the devastated Panhandle — though it stalled in the U.S. House.


$19 billion disaster aid bill passed US Senate ThursdayLawmakers disagreed for months over Puerto Rico, border aidTexas House Republican objects to aid bill, delays it 10 days.


The Senate on Thursday passed a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill to help to a number of states and Puerto Rico recover after a series of hurricanes, floods and wildfires. The widely-backed legislation passed by an 85-8 vote.


However, on Friday, the bill moved to the U.S. House, where freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) objected to the terms of the bill, delaying its passage there.


Most House lawmakers had left Washington for the Memorial Day weekend, but a few stayed behind to vote on the legislation.


Roy asked to be recognized just after the House gaveled in at 11 a.m. He spoke for several minutes to voice his concern about passing a bill with no border funding, without the full House present, and how to pay for it.


"We’ve had months to figure this out and to do our job to secure our border, and we are now expected to let the swamp continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren, making it less likely the will inherit a stronger and better country with a government capable of defending the nation and responding to disasters such as these. And with that, I respectfully object."


In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) countered: "House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism.  Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need."


Republican leaders agreed to a demand by Democrats to toss out President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion request to address a record influx of Central American migrants who are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere and coming to the United States.


The House will have another chance to pass the bill when they come back for another pro forma session on Tuesday. The full House is expected back June 3.


Trump said he’ll sign the measure. 


Relief in the Panhandle

Meanwhile, in the Florida Panhandle, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Michael, there is some relief. 


Residents in places like Mexico Beach have been picking up pieces since the powerful storm hit last October. This aid package sends some relief their way.


Plus, well more than $1 billion is going to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City.

Also, lawmakers included $600 million in supplemental disaster nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and $300 million in housing and urban development grants there.


The funding for the island held up passage of the bill and was a bone of contention for lawmakers.


"And now we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).


Closer to home, Florida lawmakers reacted to the bill as well, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.


Scott said it was important to get a deal done.


"I’ve been fighting since Hurricane Michael hit to get the funding Florida families and businesses need to recover and rebuild," Scott said. "It took way too long, but we finally got this bill across the finish line."


C.J. and Beckie Johnson had to gut their entire home because of water damage from the storm. News of the stalled bill Friday made them feel more deflated. 


“Well the people that blocked it get to go home to their own homes, they aren’t paying rent and mortages all at the same time. We are not on their radar; in fact, we are not on most of the country's radar,” said C.J. Johnson. 


“All you have to do is drive up the street, there are still people without a roof, there are still people displaced, and they are doing their best to just get by one day at a time,” he said.

State leaders said they are not giving up this fight.


“(It's) so unfair to the people in Northwest Florida, so unfair to the people around the country, who have become pawns, being used as pawns in this bipartisan gamesmanship,” Rubio said.


“Trying to add in wall funding to the disaster relief package is an absolute disgrace. Floridians across our state, we need to be outraged about this,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida). 

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