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House passes $19 billion disaster relief bill

Three Republicans each blocked votes in the last two weeks as Democrats tried to pass the measure by unanimous consent.
Floodwater from the Mississippi River rises in Foley, Missouri, on June 1, 2019.Scott Olson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The House on Monday evening passed the Senate-approved $19 billion disaster aid measure that three conservative Republicans had taken turns blocking in separate votes over the past two weeks.

With the 354-58 vote, the bill will now be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature, which can be delivered via auto-pen while he's on a state visit to the United Kingdom.

The vote came as lawmakers returned to Washington after the Memorial Day holiday recess. During that break, the three Republican members — Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and John Rose of Tennessee — each objected to Democratic attempts to pass the legislation by unanimous consent.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., slammed Republicans Monday ahead of the vote.

"When disaster strikes, we shouldn’t let a zip code dictate our response. And Americans across the country have been waiting far too long for the relief and recovery assistance they deserve," she said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

Passage of the bill comes just days after 2019’s hurricane season began. The measure provides disaster aid funding to parts of the country hit by hurricanes, flooding earthquakes and wildfires in recent years.

The Senate passed the bill last month in a 85-8 vote, and at the time, Trump had signed off on the parameters of the agreement, which excludes $4.5 billion in border funding that the White House and the Republicans kept demanding.

The bill provides about $900 million to Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, for nutrition assistance and a community development block grant, both of which were key Democratic priorities.

Funding for Puerto Rico had long been a sticking point in negotiations because Trump was opposed to giving the territory more aid. In April, he falsely claimed on Twitter that “Puerto Rico got 91 billion dollars for the hurricane," when the federal government had allocated only $40 billion for the island's recovery and most of it hasn't arrived yet.

Lawmakers from both parties had long been at an impasse over the bill. In early May for example, Trump urged House Republicans, despite their status as the minority, to reject what he called a “BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill.”