Washington - While admitting the process will require lengthy negotiations with the White House and the Senate, Democratic majority leader Steny Hoyer expects the U.S. House to approve, on Wednesday or Thursday next week, the Democratic emergency supplemental spending bill seeking more than $4.6 billion to help mitigate the damage caused by this month's earthquakes in Puerto Rico.
"We are going to send it to the Senate next week, seeking to immediately address the consequences of the earthquakes," Hoyer (Maryland) said yesterday, in an interview with El Nuevo Día.
In the face of opposition from the White House, Hoyer is aware that the Senate Republican majority will not be inclined to move the legislation forward. "We will push," he said.
Hoyer said they have not had conversations with the White House about the bill, but, as Nydia Velázquez (New York) and Darren Soto (Florida) told them, it is now necessary to promote appropriations that can help "save lives," rebuild schools, housing, and public structures.
However, he added he was not surprised by the Donald Trump administration' position against the proposed supplemental spending bill for Puerto Rico, after the slow disbursement of most of the funds approved for the island after Hurricane María, mostly through the federal Housing Department and UrbanDevelopment (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and intended for reconstruction projects.
"They have a lot of money in their hands that they haven't given to Puerto Rico," said Hoyer, the number-two Democrat in the U.S. House, indicating that the funding situation for the island is similar to the stop on the $391 million military funding to Ukraine, an action that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined was illegal.
Bill 5687, introduced by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (New York), would allocate $4.67 billion in emergency funds to Puerto Rico, which could be integrated with previous disaster relief funds approved after Hurricane María.
The bill provides tax measures, including subsidies approved last June in the House Ways and Means Committee to largely finance the implementation of Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) in Puerto Rico, which can have a more than $800 million impact on the island.