Washington - A disaster relief bill –including $600 million in nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico- was defeated in the Senate yesterday.
The Republican and the Democratic proposals did not reach the 60 votes required to advance to a full vote on the floor.
Both bills include a $600 million package in nutritional assistance for the island and $5 million to finance a study on the impact of such aid on the island following hurricane María.
However, the Democratic bill –like the one that the House passed on January- includes a waiver for the local government and municipalities from FEMA matching requirements on debris removal and emergency works as well as $25 million for the restoration of Caño Martín Peña-.
The vote on the Republican bill was 44 in favor and 49 against. While the Democratic proposal failed on a vote of 48-46.
Republicans hold 53 of the 100 Senate seats.
Senator Doug Jones (Alabama) was the only Democrat that voted for the Republican bill, while no Republican voted for the Democratic proposal.
Meanwhile, governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González replicated Washington political battle in San Juan.
On Sunday, Rosselló Nevares reaffirmed his support to the Democratic bill. Meanwhile, yesterday just when the vote in the Senate was about to start, González issued a statement expressing her support to the Republican proposal.
For González, “Republicans and Democrats can agree on a conference committee,” over the bills passed in the House.
Advisor to the governor consider they will be stronger if the achieve more initiatives in the Senate.
Republican Senator David Perdue (Georgia) repeated on the floor the Commissioner González supported his bill.
“The rest of the country shouldn’t be held hostage because of Puerto Rico,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (Georgia) about the Democratic support for other initiatives.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (New York) described the Republicans intention to limit aid for the island as a “cruel, nasty”.
Pat Leahy (Vermont), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, attempted to seek a consensus through an amendment proposal that would, among other things, grant the island more money in disaster recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing (CDBG) to replace a waiver from FEMA. But that didn't advance either.