Trump raises pressure on Dems to back disaster aid bill threatened by Puerto Rico fight

President Trump is pressing Democrats ahead of a crucial vote later Monday to support a disaster aid bill that has become threatened by a fight over funding for Puerto Rico.

Trump in a tweet urged Democrats to “stop fighting” the legislation, which provides $13.45 billion to respond to a recent spate of hurricanes, storms and wildfires.

“Democrats should stop fighting Sen. David Perdue’s disaster relief bill. They are blocking funding and relief for our great farmers and rural America!” Trump wrote.

{mosads}The Senate is expected to vote Monday evening to end debate on the GOP disaster relief proposal, which will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

But the fate of the legislation has been thrown into limbo amid a renewed fight over funding to help Puerto Rico after Trump criticized the island territory during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans last week.

The GOP bill, spearheaded by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), includes $600 million for food stamps aid in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

But Democrats are warning they will block the bill as currently written. Though Republicans control the Senate, they need at least seven Democrats to vote for the GOP disaster aid proposal to get over Monday’s procedural hurdle.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced an amendment to the GOP disaster bill to include a handful of additional provisions, including requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to release block-grant funding and money to help Puerto Rico repair damaged water systems.

A senior Senate Democratic aide told The Hill last week there were three options that would allow the disaster aid bill to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate: pass the House-passed emergency supplemental, amend the GOP proposal to include priorities from Democrats, or pass a shell bill to allow for the House and Senate to kick the issue to a conference committee.

Republicans are betting that Democrats will support the Senate bill because it would be politically damaging to vote against disaster relief money.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) jumped on Trump’s tweet on Monday, praising the president and blaming Democrats for threatening to hold up the legislation.

“It’s unacceptable that Washington’s intransigence continues to threaten the livelihoods of the very people who sent us here to represent them. Every day we continue debating disaster relief is a day people across the country face crippling uncertainty. It’s time to put aside individual political interests and pass this disaster relief bill for Americans who are depending on us,” he said in a statement.

Republicans also warn that there’s no guarantee the White House will support additional money for Puerto Rico.

Asked about Trump’s criticism of the territory after last week’s GOP lunch, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump argued that Puerto Rico had gotten more money compared with states like Texas and Florida and his point was “how much money can you absorb?”

“Are we spending the money wisely? I have nothing against helping the people in Puerto Rico. I just want to make sure we’re not just throwing money into the system,” Graham added. “It’s got to pass the smell test.”

— This report was updated at 1:58 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Patrick Leahy Richard Shelby

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