Republican Richard C. Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. (AP)

Washington - The Senate Appropriations Committee leadership confirmed that disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico, to mitigate the catastrophe caused by Hurricane María in 2017, are a key issue in the fight over the bill to address 2018 natural disasters.

According to Roll Call, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Republican Richard C. Shelby, said that Democrats “want a number of things we’ll not be able to do,” and added that “the list seems to grow sometimes too much.”

Recently, a group of Republican senators joined the proposal to allocate $600 million in supplemental nutrition assistance, intended to increase the emergency aid for close to 1.3 Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN) recipients through September

They also supported $5 million to finance a study on the impact of emergency nutrition assistance in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María.

But Democrats want to include other measures approved in the House last January.

“Anything less would be unacceptable,” said Thursday governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.

Democrats control the House, and although Republicans are majority -53-47- in the Senate, they need 60 votes to pass many measures.

Democratic senators, led by Robert Menéndez (New Jersey) wrote to congressional leaders asking to consider including, in the bicameral disaster supplemental appropriations bill, all the measures passed in the House, such as $25 million for the Caño Martín Peña restoration, and language that would allow “funds provided by the Defraying the Cost of Enrolling Displaced Students program to be shifted to the Emergency Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education program to further assist Puerto Rico.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) opposed to the $600 million package in nutrition assistance and to the waiver from FEMA matching requirements.

However, when they introduced their bill, which includes the $600 million package, Republicans such as David Perdue (Georgia), Rick Scott (Florida) and Marco Rubio (Florida), said that the White House would favor their legislation that totals $13,6 billion.

The bill passed in the House last January would allocate $14.17 billion.

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