The White House issued a veto threat Wednesday over a $4.7 billion emergency aid package intended to help Puerto Rico recover from a series of damaging earthquakes.

The statement came ahead of a vote planned for Friday in the Democratic-controlled House to pass the aid package.

It’s the latest in a series of confrontations between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over disaster assistance to Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory is still waiting on billions of dollars approved by Congress for recovery from Hurricane Maria more than two years ago, though the administration recently agreed to release some of the money subject to several conditions.

As part of that effort, Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday signed a grant agreement that is meant to allow the territory to access $8.3 billion in Department of Housing and Urban Development funding related to the hurricane.

Still rebuilding from the 2017 hurricane, Puerto Rico was hit by a series of earthquakes beginning in late December, including a 6.4-magnitude temblor on Jan. 7 that killed one person and caused widespread damage and power outages. Aftershocks have continued, with a 5-magnitude earthquake hitting just Tuesday.

A string of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks originating in the south of the island continue to stun and rattle residents in early January. (The Washington Post)

The House Democrats’ $4.67 billion aid package would include $3.26 billion in community development block grants, $1.25 billion for repairs to roads, and tens of millions more for schools, energy and nutrition assistance.

The aid package was unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form.

In its veto message, the White House Office of Management and Budget called the House legislation “misguided.”

“Neither Puerto Ricans nor the American taxpayers benefit when emergency aid is misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse,” the veto message said. “Multiple high-profile cases of corruption have marred distribution of aid already appropriated and have led to ongoing political instability on the island."

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) contended that the aid package provides “targeted assistance to help families and communities recover from these devastating earthquakes and puts Puerto Rico on a better path to long-term recovery.”

Lowey said the package also establishes safeguards “designed to address the Trump administration’s outrageous withholding of vital aid to Puerto Rico,” including requiring detailed spending plans and requiring money to be released in a timely way.

Jeff Stein contributed to this report.

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