Durbin accuses Republicans of playing favorites with disaster aid

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin complained again Tuesday that large sections of Puerto Rico still have no power.

It has now been more than 100 days since the island was hit by Hurricane Maria.
Most of Illinois’ top Democrats have visited Chicago’s official welcoming center for refugees from Puerto Rico. Few, though, have the clout of Senator Dick Durbin, who went there to accuse congressional Republicans of playing favorites with disaster aid.

“Our colleagues in congress are quick to tell us, ‘we need substantial assistance for Texas and for Florida.’ We have added to the list and said, ‘what about California and its wildfires? What about Puerto Rico? What about the U.S. Virgin Islands?’ Let us address the entire spectrum of disaster assistance,” Durbin said.

Congress failed to address any of it before taking a break for the holidays. Left hanging was a proposal that included $81 billion for disaster relief. The lion's share of that cash would go to Texas and Florida. While President Trump was vacationing in Florida last week, the state's Republican governor took advantage of it to personally lobby him on New Year's Eve. Gov. Rick Scott wants a bail out for the Citrus industry and more federal cash for a 143-mile long flood-control system of levees and dikes.

“When I had lunch with him, we talked about the dike, making sure we had the money for Okeechobee. We talked about the Citrus industry. That really got hurt, so we need assistance there,” Scott said.

This disaster assistance money is caught up in budget bargaining on capitol hill, and congress faces a very tight timetable. They must act by January 19th or the federal government could shut down.

Approval of the disaster aid package was blocked last month by lawmakers from Texas and Florida, demanding more money for their states.