Hours after joining with leaders of Western Europe to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France during World War II, President Donald Trump turned his attention back to emergencies at home, signing into law a long delayed $19.1 billion package to help people hit by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters.
"Just signed Disaster Aid Bill to help Americans who have been hit by recent catastrophic storms," the President tweeted after returning to his golf course in Ireland.
The bill includes $2.7 billion for repairs at several military installations: Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was leveled by Hurricane Michael, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, which was hit by spring floods, and Marine base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which was damaged by Hurricane Florence.
$4.5 billion in aid would flow through the Department of Agriculture for farmers hit by natural disasters, and another $3.3 billion would go to the Army Corps of Engineers for future storm mitigation projects.
While President Trump said that the people of Puerto Rico "should love" him for signing the bill into law, it was his opposition to extra relief for the island's recovery from Hurricane Maria which partly delayed the process of final action in Congress.
“It was in response to the President’s direction to not provide a dollar of additional aid to Puerto Rico that Republicans delayed the disaster relief for over four months,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
The House passed $14 billion in relief in January - that went nowhere in the Senate. The House followed up with a $19 billion plan in early May.
The Senate made some changes just before Memorial Day, and then three GOP lawmakers in the House further delayed the bill for another ten days, requesting a formal roll call vote on the measure.
"It shouldn’t have taken 8 months to pass this disaster relief package. This should serve as a lesson for both sides of the aisle," said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). "Disaster relief must never be a partisan issue."
"I am so grateful that the disaster relief that Georgia farmers and millions of Americans have been waiting on for so long is finally coming,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), whose state was hit hard by Hurricane Michael.
The bill also includes a provision which forces the Trump Administration to release $16 billion in disaster aid - approved way back in February of 2018 by the Congress - to help various areas hit by storms in 2017.
The money includes over $8 billion for Puerto Rico, $4.3 billion for Texas, and $1.2 billion for Louisiana.
The White House and officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development have never really explained why the money remains on hold, 16 months after being approved by the Congress.
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