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By Miriam Raftery

September 9, 2017 (San Diego)—President Donald Trump has signed into law H.R. 601, to provide $15.25 billion in emergency appropriations for disaster response. The measure also extends authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program through December 8th to help those impacted by disasters including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The President confounded Republicans in Congress by crossing the aisle to work with Democratic leaders to pass the disaster relief bill, which also extends the nation’s debt ceiling until December 8th.  Conservatives have opposed raising the debt ceiling, wanting to take money from other programs instead and/or avoid further debt ceiling decisions closer to next year’s elections.  In the end, some Republicans joined with nearly all Democrats to pass the bill.

In his signing statement, President Trump said he “appreciates Congress putting aside partisan politics and acting quickly to ensure that first responders, local officials, and Federal emergency management personnel have the resources they need to respond to the natural disasters impacting our Nation,” adding that “as the damage from Hurricane Irma unfolds, it is especially important that the men and women in the Southeast and our Caribbean territories stand strong and rest assured that this Administration will always put the needs of the American people above partisan politics as usual.”

The Trump administration has ordered an aircraft carrier to Florida, where it stands ready to provide emergency medical aid and other relief in the wake of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.

The President has drawn praise for his swift action in rseponse to the devastating storms,  though critics say his failure to acknowledge climate change and his appointment of climate change deniers to head up the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, which includes the National Weather Service, is blocking efforts to reverse climate change. Scientific experts have warned that warm ocean surface temperatures caused by climate change are fueling larger and more dangerous storms such as the unprecedented number of severe hurricanes currently ravaging parts of the U.S. as well as islands across the Caribbean and Mexico's eastern coast.

Far more aid will ultimately be needed to address needs of survivors of the hurricanes as well as wildfires ravaging Western states.  The Governor of  Texas has estimated that damage in his state alone could reach $180 billion.  The $15.25 billion approved is an important first step, however, to provide rescue and relief personnel during and immediately after these disasters.