Democrats and Republicans squabble on the disaster relief bill

H.R. 268, also known as “the disaster relief bill that made the evening headlines yesterday and the morning news today” is in the Senate, stuck in a bureaucratic lull of debate. The problem is, this bill isn’t something that will be implemented in six months. It’s a disaster relief bill, meaning it’s urgent. In fact, it also specifically gives Iowa more money to deal with disasters, obviously aimed at tempting Democratic Senators who are running for president (of whom there are six) to vote for a GOP bill that most obviously helps Iowa, the site of the first caucus of the electoral primary season.

The bill doesn’t just help Iowa, though. It also appropriates further money for thirteen departments, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), intended to bring environmentalist democrats to vote for the bill, the Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers (who were ordered by the Secretary of Defense to start building fences and other barriers at the southern border), and other government entities.

The bill also allocates more than $12 billion to provide relief for the most recent natural disasters.

So what’s the big problem? If Democratic candidates and Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) can score points in Iowa, plus the more important reason, which is that it helps people in desperate need of disaster relief, what’s the hold-up?

Democrats, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, have found themselves to be voting for a completely different bill than they envisioned. For one, their original bill allocated more money for disaster relief in the US territory of Puerto Rico, which famously suffered after President Trump hesitated to respond in the aftermath of a deadly hurricane (similar criticisms were addressed to former President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina). However, the President supports the bill and has even advocated for it on Twitter, so no surprising vetoes there.


So what about the legislative side of things?

The current vote is 49-44, and with sixty votes required to pass the Senate, it’s at a dead end. And the Iowa money didn’t manage to convince Democratic presidential hopefuls to vote for it, either. Five of the six candidates voted “nay”, and the other candidate (California Senator Kamala Harris) abstained as she will be at a campaign event in Carson City, Nevada.

So what now for H.R. 268?

For now, it’s hit a lull, and although we expected a deal to be hammered out by midnight Eastern Time (9:00 PM Pacific Time), but twelve hours later, it just didn’t happen. What we can expect is a “Twitter War” and a lot of haggling behind closed doors. So don’t be surprised if some of that money earmarked for disaster relief goes to farm subsidies.

This page will be updated as the story develops.

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