With U.S. Sen. David Perdue, left, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen inspect crop damage at Pecan Ridge Plantation in Bainbridge on Oct. 16, 2018, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: The aftermath of a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill

Two hundred and thirty-six days after Hurricane Michael hit Georgia, Congress has finally sent President Trump a disaster relief bill to aid the storm's victims. The final tally was 354 to 58, all of the 'no' votes coming from Republicans.

In case you were wondering, all 14 of the state's U.S. House members backed the measure.

In addition to helping beleaguered farmers in south Georgia, the $19.1 billion package also includes $605 million in food assistance for Puerto Rico, $3.2 billion to rebuild hurricane-damaged military bases and $8 billion to help California cope with wildfire damage.

Tuesday evening’s vote in the U.S. House put an end to an embarrassing, seven-month saga that showcases just how little is likely to get done in Washington as lawmakers gird their loins for next year’s election season.

With a 2020 bid for re-election on the line, no Georgia politician was more vulnerable to accusations of congressional dithering than U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. Which is perhaps why he has penned an op-ed in The Hill newspaper that lays out three actions Congress should take to ensure similar delays don’t happen again.

His suggestions: Establish a reserve fund that would negate the need for individual appropriations; cut red tape at the federal agencies that dole out aid money; and put the nation’s fiscal house in order.

But the op-ed by Perdue, who has tied himself closely to President Donald Trump, also reflects the damage done by a White House that slow-walked the aid package -- in large part because of Trump’s opposition to additional hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico. As he has done in past days, Perdue portrays Trump as the hero in this saga:

Despite Democrats pushing for poison pill proposals, President Trump was able to break through the gridlock, and the House and Senate found consensus on a bipartisan disaster relief package on May 23.

 ...Most of the delay was caused by partisan demands from Democrats for additional aid for Puerto Rico following 2017 hurricanes – even though the island is already eligible to receive $91 billion to recover from these storms. That’s three times more funding than Texas was eligible to receive for Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and nearly double what was appropriated for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

President Trump agreed to support additional aid for Puerto Rico in order to pass a disaster relief bill as soon as possible. However, Democrats and Republicans could not find consensus on the level of funding. There was also a disagreement over border humanitarian fund

The key phrase above is “eligible to receive.” Puerto Rico has actually received only a fraction of the $91 billion that Perdue mentioned, allocated after two hurricanes devastated the U.S. island in 2017. As of last December, received funds stood at about $11.2 billion, according to fact-checkers.

The bill now heads to Trump’s desk, but the president appeared to have some momentary confusion about that last night. In a since-deleted tweet following his visit with the royal family in London, he said:

“House just passed the 19.1 Billion Dollar Disaster Aid Bill. Great, now we will get it done in the Senate! Farmers, Puerto Rico and all will be very happy."

On the bright side, it sounds like he still supports the legislation.

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We haven’t seen the invite yet, but we’re told White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg will hold a fundraiser, presumably Thursday, at the home of Rutherford Seydel and Laura Turner Seydel. The South Bend, Ind. mayor is one of four Democratic presidential candidates crisscrossing Atlanta this week. On Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden will raise cash at the home of prominent donor Mack Wilbourn.

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On Monday, June 3, Alabama celebrated the 211th birthday of Jefferson Davis with a state holiday. It is the last state to have a legal holiday set aside solely to commemorate the life of the Confederacy’s one and only president.

One can rail against the idea, and many do. Or one can follow the lead of the Montgomery Advertiser. On Monday, the newspaper ran a piece making clear that Davis was a racist, and that the Confederacy was built around the concept of white supremacy.

But it did more than that. The Advertiser noted that “from 1936 to 1938, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency, sent workers throughout the South to collect oral histories from survivors of slavery, eventually conducting more than 2,000 interviews, including at least 129 in Alabama.”

To celebrate Jeff Davis’ birthday, the newspaper published transcripts of several of those interviews with former Alabama slaves. The headline: “'Where was the Lord?': On Jefferson Davis' birthday, 9 slave testimonies”

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Over at Georgia Trend, Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint wonders if a feudal fever that has afflicted the General Assembly is on the wane. The gist:

[F]or those keeping score, since 2017, cityhood movements are a collective 0 for 3. Add in the LaVista Hills loss in 2015, and that’s four losses in the last four years. It looks as though the appeal of chartering new cities in congested and overtaxed metro Atlanta is losing steam.

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Posted earlier this morning: The Republican field in Georgia’s Sixth District congressional contest now numbers four. Milton businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has harsh words for two GOP rivals: Former incumbent Karen Handel and state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta.

On Handel: “Basically I would call her professional campaigner, but she loses.”

On Beach: “Just another government employee.”

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In Washington, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, helped launch the Black-Jewish congressional caucus on Monday. Per theAmerican Jewish Committee, the bipartisan group will “raise awareness of each community’s sensitivities and needs, in Congress and around the country,” seek to combat stereotypes, support “stronger hate crimes legislation and advocate for increased government resources to confront the threat of white supremacist ideology,” among other legislative priorities.

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Climate and public policy are mixing in Columbus. From the WTVM website:

Approximately 200 inmates currently in the Muscogee County Jail have no air conditioning, according to the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office.

Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins says that, at this time, two floors of the jail are without air conditioning. The common areas, however, are well ventilated.

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