A supplemental appropriations bill that includes $3 billion in agricultural disaster aid passed the House over Republican opposition on Wednesday after Democrats attached a provision that would reopen the government without resolving the impasse with President Donald Trump.
The GOP-controlled Senate isn't expected to consider the bill, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up any attempts to end the shutdown that don't have Trump's support.
The White House threatened a veto of the bill, which was consistent with its other threats to block Democratic attempts to end the shutdown without an agreement on funding the border wall. "Presenting these, or similar bills, to the President without a broader agreement to address the border crisis is unacceptable," the White House said in its statement of administration policy on the disaster bill.
The bulk of the disaster aid would be provided in payments modeled after a disaster aid program enacted last year for 2017 losses but with increased coverage levels sought by cotton growers who lost their crops to Hurricane Michael. The limit on recovering crop losses from 85 to 90 percent for producers with crop insurance and from 65 percent to 70 percent for growers without it.
The House adopted by voice vote an amendment to increase the authorized agricultural assistance from $1.1 billion to $3 billion. Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop, the chairman of the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, said USDA originally estimated that $1.1 billion would be needed, but that now appears to be inadequate.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and six state affiliates had appealed to the House to approve an increase in the assistance.
The House ultimately passed the bill, 237-187. with support from just six Republicans.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, an Alabama Republican who chaired the subcommittee in the last Congress, said he had planned to vote for the measure but couldn’t do so after Democrats added the “poison pill” provision to fund the government through Feb. 8.
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.J., defended adding the provision to reopen the closed departments and agencies, which include USDA and the Interior Department. “We all want to ensure that American families and communities have the resources they need to recover from recent natural disasters. And, to allow federal agencies to begin carrying out the vital work that we are funding in this bill, we must reopen the federal government,” she said.
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