Dems urging 'no' votes on GOP disaster aid package

Dems urging 'no' votes on GOP disaster aid package

House Democratic leaders are urging their members to oppose the Republicans’ $81 billion disaster aid package, Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday, just hours before the bill is expected to hit the floor.

Democrats are opposing the emergency spending package for several reasons. 

First, they think the $81 billion is an inadequate amount to cover Puerto Rico by itself, let alone for covering the island territories in addition to all the states — including California, Texas and Florida — that have suffered natural disasters in recent months. 
 
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Second, the Republicans' bill does not delineate where, specifically, the money will go. The Democrats fear that the states will get a lion's share of the $81 billion, leaving the territories to suffer. 
 
“Given how the Trump Administration and the federal agencies have treated Puerto Rico in the face of this historic disaster, it is clear that the supplemental will do very little to help the Puerto Rican people recover," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Thursday.
 
And third, the GOP bill also expands the powers of the outside control board established to manage Puerto Rico's debt-crisis — a provision that's anathema to many Democrats, particularly those with Puerto Rican roots, who have long criticized the board for infringing on the territory's autonomy. 

Overwhelming opposition from the Democrats would put additional pressure on Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders to find the 217 Republican votes needed to pass both the emergency aid package and a spending bill to keep the government running beyond Friday, when funding expires.

Democratic leaders have already warned that they’re whipping against the continuing resolution, or CR, because it lacks several of their priorities, including parity between hikes in defense and nondefense spending and funding for the opioid crisis.

“We are urging members to vote ‘no’ on both,” Hoyer said. 

Republican deficit hawks have balked at emergency disaster bills in the past, citing the absence of offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget. In October, the House adopted a $36.5 billion disaster package by a vote of 353 to 69.

All the opposition came from Republicans.

But a number of Republicans representing districts affected by this year’s storms are pressing hard for the disaster aid to pass this week. If it doesn’t, some are warning they’ll vote against the CR.

The competing factions are an additional headache for GOP leaders, already under heavy pressure to move both the CR and the emergency supplemental bill before Christmas. Fresh from an enormous tax-reform win on Wednesday, the Republicans don’t want to dilute their victory with public displays of internal division or, worse, a government shutdown.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Democratic leaders were whipping against the disaster aid. While Democratic leaders were urging their members to vote against it, they say they were not using the formal whipping process.