Apr 1, 2019

Democrats derail Senate disaster relief bill amid clash over Puerto Rico

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico in 2017. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Monday blocked a key vote on a $13.5 billion disaster-recovery funding measure amid an escalating fallout over hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.

Details: The massive bill passed by the House in January would allocate funding to states like Florida and North Carolina, which were hit last year by hurricanes. Senate Republicans have also added funds for victims in the Midwest affected by flooding last month. But Democrats argue that the $600 million for nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico under the bill is insufficient, and that the island is in urgent need of more funds for disaster relief and to rebuild its water system.

The big picture: President Trump doesn't want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, claiming in private — without evidence — that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt. He told Senate Republicans at a lunch last week that Puerto Rico has already received more disaster funding than many U.S., though the figure he cited was inaccurate, the Washington Post reports.

What they're saying:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "This is no time for our colleagues across the aisle to prioritize a political fight with the president ahead of the urgent needs of communities across our country."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): "Republicans must remember that — just as we leave no soldier behind on the battlefield — we help our fellow Americans when there’s a disaster, wherever the disaster strikes. We do not abandon them. Period."
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): "To my colleagues across the aisle who have been spending a lot of time in Iowa lately as presidential candidates ... how are you going to look Iowans in the eye and justify a vote against moving this disaster relief bill ahead?"

Go deeper: Trump wants no more relief funds for Puerto Rico

Go deeper

Kenan Thompson and Hasan Minhaj to headline White House Correspondents' Dinner

Kenan Thompson on "SNL" in 2018. Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

Kenan Thompson, the longest-tenured "Saturday Night Live" cast member, will host the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on April 25.

And Hasan Minhaj — host of Netflix’s "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj," and the entertainer at the 2017 dinner — will return as featured entertainer.

"Billions": Season 2020

Mike Bloomberg speaks at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. Photo: James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Money alone can’t buy a presidential election, but it surely gets you VIP access.

Why it matters: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is duking it out with Billionaire Donald Trump, often on Billionaire Jack Dorsey’s Twitter and in ads on Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, all chronicled in Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post. 

Biometrics invade banking and retail

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Banks have been quietly rolling out biometrics to identify customers — verifying them by their fingerprint, voice or eye scan — and retailers like Amazon are getting into the game.

Why it matters: These companies are amassing giant databases of our most personal information — including our gait, how we hold our cellphones, our typing patterns — that raise knotty questions about data security and privacy.