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Impasse Over Aid for Puerto Rico Stalls Billions in Federal Disaster Relief

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Monday blocked billions of dollars in disaster aid for states across the country as Republicans and Democrats' clashed over President Trump's opposition to sending more food and infrastructure help to Puerto Rico. different reasons. Most Republicans refused to endorse a recovery bill passed this year by the House. They cited Mr. Trump's opposition to the bill's Puerto Rico funding, as well as their own concerns that billed money for Midwestern states, like Iowa and Nebraska, which have been devastated by flooding and tornadoes.

For their part, Democrats balked at Separate measure drafted by Senate Republicans that included the money for the Midwest, arguing that a proposed $ 600 million in nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico was not enough. The Republican legislation had no chance in the House.

Votes on both measures were procedural and needed support from 60 senators to advance to a full floor vote. Neither won the support required. It was unclear late Monday how lawmakers would overcome that and end the delay in the disaster aid.

The effort starts on Tuesday, when Senate Democrats will propose a measure that would allocate billions of dollars that would help Iowa and Nebraska , as well as Puerto Rico, according to Senate Democratic aide.

Mr. Trump has been pressuring Democrats to support a disaster relief that does not include the money they want for Puerto Rico, and has been attacked on Monday late on Twitter

"The Democrats today killed a bill that would have provided great relief Puerto Rico has already been scheduled to receive more hurricane relief funding than any place in history, " he tweeted .

Puerto Ricans" are great, ”he added, but“ their government can't do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works. ”

Varying forms of recovery have been in limbo since December, when an initial version was tacked on to legislation that could have prevented the 35-day government shutdown. And while the House passed a relief package in January, it was ultimately left out of the compromise measure that reopened the government.

Some lawmakers were optimistic that a resolution could be found quickly. Democrats in both chambers have pushed for a select group of lawmakers to draft legislation that borrows from both measures.

"I'm sure we'll start talking again," said Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He compared the negotiating process to a three-legged stool: “You've got the House, you've got the Senate and the Presidency.”

, "He said.

Still, senators from both parties tried to use the disaster relief to their political advantage.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said that" tonight, my colleagues had the opportunity to choose action about obstruction. ”

“ Shamefully, ”he added,“ Senate Democrats said no. ”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in a statement that“ Congress used to set politics aside after major disasters and help victims in their time of need – partisan infighting won't rebuild a single home or school. ”

Even Puerto Rican politicians could not agree on which of the measures to support. Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló, a Democrat, urged lawmakers to endorse the House legislation. But representative Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican, spoke out in favor of the Senate measure. Ms. González-Colón is the island's sole representative in Congress, but she cannot vote

Even before the votes on Monday, Republicans had tried to turn into a 2020 presidential campaign issue.

“To my colleagues across the aisle who have been spending a lot of time in Iowa lately as presidential candidates, "Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said on the Senate floor," how are you going to look in the eye and justify a vote against moving this disaster relief bill ahead? ”

" Nutrition assistance is not enough – Puerto Rico needs to rebuild, "said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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