The House on Thursday passed a $36.5 billion disaster aid bill to help states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from a string of natural disasters.
The bill was brought up under rules allowing for a quicker debate, but which also required a two-thirds majority vote. It passed 353-69, and all of the "no" votes were Republicans.
Many Republicans have continued to argue that disaster aid needs to be paid for with offsetting cuts. The final tally for aid to hurricane-stricken areas of Texas and Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, expected to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Some Republicans were also expected to oppose language in the bill bailing out the National Flood Insurance Program.
The bill passed hours after President Trump tweeted that federal officials and the military won't be able to be in Puerto Rico "forever." While the government has more than 17,000 U.S. military and other personnel helping with disaster aid efforts, Democrats used the debate on the bill to condemn Trump's tweet, and accuse him of considering withdrawing from the effort soon.
"The president of the United States is tweeting out threats to withdraw assistance," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., a Puerto Rico native. "That is an outrage, it is an insult and it is an abdication of the solemn duty to protect the safety of the American people."
The House bill includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, plus $576.5 million to help California and other western states recover from wildfires, and $16 billion to bail out the insolvent National Flood Insurance Program.
House lawmakers added funding, requested by the Trump administration, for a $4.9 billion loan for Puerto Rico, which needs an immediate cash infusion to keep its government running. The package also provides $1.3 billion for Puerto Rico to receive special access to a federal food assistance program for the poor.
The bill is the second federal disaster relief package Congress has passed since the summer, when Hurricanes Irma and Harvey caused major damage to Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Congress cleared a $15.3 billion disaster aid package on Sept. 7.
A third Hurricane, Maria, struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 20. The two islands were also hit by Irma on Sept. 6.
"With such massive unprecedented damage, more help is needed, clearly needed, to continue to respond to these recovery efforts to rebuild communities with dollars, with resources, with manpower, and with our support," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., during the debate.
In an emotional floor speech, Rep. Jennifer González, Puerto Rico's non-voting Republican delegate, pointed out that the island's residents are American citizens and the recovery effort has been hampered because help must arrive by ship or airplane.
González said 85 percent of the population has no power, while 44 percent lack running water and 58 percent have no access to communications. Many towns can only be accessed by air because entire roads have been washed away.
González has been mostly supportive of President Trump and has defended the recovery efforts by the administration. But she rebutted his tweet.
"The American citizens who live in Puerto Rico are still suffering," González said. "This is not the time to focus on how and when resources will be withdrawn from Puerto Rico or how slowly we are rebuilding the island."