House approves five-year farm bill
69 Republicans vote against aid for Puerto Rico, other disaster sites
Legislation to provide $36.5 billion in aid for communities affected by recent wildfires and hurricanes, including Puerto Rico, secured widespread support in the House on Thursday save for 69 Republicans.
The votes in opposition included many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who believe government spending should not add to the deficit.
Freedom Caucus leaders like Chairman Mark Meadows (N.C.), Justin Amash (Mich.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), voted against the aid package.
The legislation provides $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) disaster relief fund, $16 billion to address national flood insurance program debt and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts.
It also provides $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory remains largely without power, with many residents still lacking access to food or clean water.
Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.), who leads the Republican Study Committee, also voted against the legislation due to the lack of offsets.
"Hurricane aid shouldn't be added to the debt. That's akin to going to the Emergency Room after an injury, putting the charges on a credit card, and then pretending that the Visa bill is never going to arrive," Walker wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
The majority of the House GOP conference did vote for the legislation, including every member of the Florida delegation whose state was ravaged by Hurricane Irma last month.
Barton and Hensarling also voted against a $15 billion package last month to provide federal assistance for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August. Neither Barton nor Hensarling represent counties deemed disaster areas by FEMA.
A total of 69 Republicans voted against the aid package on Thursday.
By comparison, 90 GOP lawmakers voted against a $15 billion package to help recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. That measure also included a debt-limit increase and a three-month government funding extension, which contributed to the higher number of Republicans in opposition.
Lawmakers are expected to consider billions more in disaster aid in the weeks to come.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday called for his state's congressional delegation to vote against the bill unless it included an additional $18.7 billion Texas officials are requesting to recover from Hurricane Harvey.
"It appears the Texas delegation will let themselves be rolled by the House of Representatives," Abbott told the Houston Chronicle.
Following a phone call with Abbott, members of the Texas delegation released a statement identifying nearly $15 billion in the package to be used for people in the state affected by Harvey, specifically $11 billion to pay for flood insurance claims and $4 billion from FEMA for disaster relief.