Capitol Alert

Only one California Republican defied Trump on disaster bill. He represents Paradise

Rep. Doug La Malfa of Oroville was the only California Republican to defy President Donald Trump and vote for House Democrats’ disaster aid bill on Friday.

The legislation would provide $19.1 billion in disaster relief funds for victims of California’s deadly 2018 wildfires as well as for flooding in the Midwest and hurricanes in the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

The money would go to a range of federal programs, including infrastructure repairs, assistance for farmers and rural communities, and housing, health care, and other social services in disaster areas.

The president came out in opposition to the bill on Thursday night, tweeting, “House Republicans should not vote for the BAD DEMOCRAT Disaster Supplemental Bill which hurts our States, Farmers & Border Security. Up for vote tomorrow. We want to do much better than this. All sides keep working and send a good BILL for immediate signing!”

But La Malfa said in a statement that providing assistance for his district, which was ravaged by both the Camp Fire and Carr Fire in 2018, was his top priority. The Camp Fire, in Butte County, was the deadliest and most destructive in California history, killing 85 people and almost entirely wiping out the Sierra Nevada foothill town of Paradise.

“While I have many reservations about this bill and the lack of negotiation that was allowed by Democrat leadership, disaster assistance for Carr Fire and Camp Fire survivors is of the utmost importance, and for that reason I voted to continue the bill’s process and further this negotiation,” La Malfa said.

Thirty-three of La Malfa’s House GOP colleagues joined him in voting for the legislation, many from parts of the country that have also been affected by disasters in the past year. California’s six other Republican congressmen, however, voted against the bill.

The Democrat-controlled House previously passed disaster funding legislation in January. But the package of relief funds has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, amid disagreements on funding for Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The president, in particular, has been critical of providing more funds for the island territory, claiming the government there has been wasting money.

Shortly after Friday’s House passage, Trump tweeted, “Great Republican vote today on Disaster Relief Bill. We will now work out a bipartisan solution that gets relief for our great States and Farmers. Thank you to all. Get me a Bill that I can quickly sign!”

In his statement, La Malfa said he is working with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and “both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to craft a bipartisan disaster aid bill that can pass both chambers, become law, and actually help people.”

Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and writes the Impact2020 newsletter. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.