House approves emergency aid package for hurricanes, wildfires

Marta Sostre Vazquez reacts as she starts to wade into the San Lorenzo Morovis River with her family in Morovis, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, after a bridge was swept away by Hurricane Maria. The family was returning to their home after visiting family on the other side. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS News) — The U.S. House passed a $36.5 billion disaster aid package for victims of the recent hurricanes and California fires Thursday in a 353-69 vote.

Only Republicans voted against the measure, as it heads to the Senate.

The vote came after President Trump requested an additional $29 billion for disaster aid last week. The package would give $18.6 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as it grapples with the wreckage of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The legislation also offers $4.9 billion for a community disaster assistance loan to help Puerto Rico with its government payroll and pension payments. An additional $16 billion of the funding will go towards debt relief for the National Flood Insurance Program.

The package also offers $576 million to address the wildfires raging in California. As of Thursday, those blazes have killed 24 people in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Napa County and Yuba County, according to Cal Fire.

The vote also came just hours after President Trump announced on Twitter announced federal entities cannot stay in Puerto Rico forever, even as the vast majority of the U.S. territory goes without power and many have no access to clean drinking water.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>…We cannot keep FEMA, the Military &amp; the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href=”https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918432809282342912?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 12, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Ben Carson, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he has “no intention of abandoning Puerto Rico.”

“I have no intention of abandoning Puerto Rico they’re very important part of who we are,” Carson said during a House Financial Services Committee hearing Thursday morning.

Mr. Trump has lashed out at Puerto Rico for being unprepared to handle the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. But he has also suggested the U.S. might “wipe” out the territory’s debt. That comment forced Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to walk back the president’s comments, telling CBS News’ Margaret Brennan “we’re absolutely not” bailing out Puerto Rico.

 

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