A disaster relief deal has very slim chances of being reached this week due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to consent to providing more funding to Puerto Rico as his clash with the island’s public officials intensifies, Senate negotiators have said.
The feud, however, does not affect only the island but also Midwestern and Southern states where farmers are in dire need of immediate assistance, according to GOP senators. The current situation complicates matters further as by delaying a deal to next week, lawmakers would only have a small window of time to reach an agreement before Congress is set to go on a two-week recess on April 15.
“We’re stalled. Now we’re at an impasse,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, who is leading the negotiations. “The linchpin is Puerto Rico right now.”
Democrats had proposed compromise legislation that would have both increased funding for Puerto Rico and included $2.5 billion in new funding for Midwest and Southeast states hit by storms, but Shelby rejected the legislation, saying that President Trump as well opposes it.
Trump’s refusal to grant additional funds to Puerto Rico may be due to the fact that he has had a beef with San Juan Major Yulin Cruz for a long time, with the two name-calling each other. Most recently, Trump called the mayor “crazed and incompetent” and she responded by saying he was “vindictive.”
Trump later tweeted that the island has already been granted $91 billion in aid, which an administration official said referred to the $41 billion allocated for the island and future Federal Emergency Management Agency costs of $50 billion.
The number one Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, stressed that only $462 million out of $3.2 billion in new money added to the revised Democratic proposal was intended for Puerto Rico and the rest “for Midwest states, for Florida, for Alabama.”
Republicans, meanwhile, warned that postponing the relief package to May would be a huge disappointment to people in storm-damaged states.