What’s a few more days?

Published 11:45 am Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finally, it seemed they all agreed on something. Friday, a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill was poised to pass, providing much-needed aid for some of the worst natural disasters this nation has ever seen.

Republicans backed off of including border-wall funding in order to pass this bill. Democrats negotiated another sticking point: aid to Puerto Rico. A separate program was established to distribute $16 billion in aid to farmers affected by the trade war with China.

Many believe the bill is long overdue, as it provides more funding for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that still has not recovered from the near-category 5 Hurricane Maria in 2017; funding to the Southeast for Hurricanes Florence and Michael last year; funding for the recovery of the massive wildfires last year, including in California, which experienced the most destructive and deadliest wildfire season on record; as well as funding to rebuild hurricane-damaged structures on military bases, some of them right here in eastern North Carolina.

It took months of wrangling and negotiating to get to the point where nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle was OK with its passage. The Senate passed it 85 to 8 on Thursday. The President tweeted his support of the deal that night. With a unanimous vote, the House could have passed it Friday, before Congress recessed until June 3.

A single vote waylaid the bill. That vote was by a congressman from Texas, who said he objected to the $19.1 billion price tag, the fact the border wall funding was not included and that many fellow legislators had already left town for the break and wouldn’t be voting. Considering the President himself had already signaled he supported the bill even without border wall funding, the congressman’s second objection didn’t make sense. Yes, it is a hefty bill, financially, but that’s required when parts of the country have the bad luck to be in the path of hurricanes and wildfires. Yes, the vote could have come at a better time — one not on the eve of a major holiday weekend — but the content of this bill, getting the ball rolling on much-delayed federal aid should have been the exception to the rule.

“The primary objection is really that we didn’t have a chance to vote. It’s the people’s House,” the congressman said.

Well, many of those people are still suffering from the effects of flooding, hurricanes and wildfires — but what’s a few more days for someone who’s trying to prove a point?