Two hundred and thirty-seven days after Hurricane Michael breached the Florida Panhandle, Congress finally passed a disaster aid package that will bring much-needed relief to victims of the storm.
The House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved a $19.1 billion disaster supplement that will bring aid to Floridians and other communities rocked by catastrophes of the past year, such as the California wildfires, other storms that hit the Carolinas, wildfires in California, and recent flooding in the Midwest. It also includes some additional aid for Puerto Rico, despite President Donald Trump’s loud criticism of the island territory and attempts to block more federal help.
The bill already passed the Senate and heads to the president after Monday’s 354 to 58 vote. Trump indicated he will sign it.
Of the 58 Republicans who voted against the measure, two hailed from Florida: Reps. Francis Rooney of Naples and Greg Steube of Sarasota. Every other member of the state’s delegation voted for it (except Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, who was absent).
“If I was in their district, I’d vote them out," Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican, said after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, according to WFSU. “Those individuals that don’t realize the harm and suffering that’s happening in Northwest Florida, and the recovery that we’re trying to endure right now. For them to put themselves over the better good of the recovery of the other citizens of the United States is shameful.”
The Tampa Bay Times asked why these lawmakers voted against the bill, despite Trump’s support. Both indicated they were bothered by the fiscal impacts of the legislation. Here’s what they said.
“It has become all too common for Congress to use disaster funding to break through spending caps that are in place. There are legitimate needs for funding to assist with recovery from horrific natural disasters that affected Florida and other states around the country, however I could not support a bill that is completely fiscally irresponsible.”
“While I’m glad the panhandle received the funding it desperately needed, I could not in good conscience vote for the Supplemental Appropriation which was filled with outrageous spending and no plan to pay for it. I ran for Congress refusing to add to the national debt, and this bill had a high price tag with no offset."
Here’s what other Florida members of Congress said after the passage of the bill.
More hurricane coverage: Tampa Bay Times hurricane guide