White House Seeks Emergency Funding for Hurricanes, Afghan Help
(Bloomberg) -- The White House on Tuesday asked Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funds to cover costs associated with recent hurricanes, wildfires in western states and the resettlement of refugees from the war in Afghanistan.
White House Acting Budget Director Shalanda Young, in a blog post Tuesday, said the administration is seeking the money as part of a stopgap spending bill to fund the government past the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year.
Young said the White House is seeking $14 billion for disasters that hit the country prior to Hurricane Ida, while Ida itself is estimated to require at least $10 billion of aid. The White House expects to provide an exact Ida funding request in the coming weeks, officials said.
Meanwhile, the administration is seeking $6.4 billion to help with Afghan resettlement. The White House estimates that 65,000 Afghans will arrive in the U.S. this month as part of a special resettlement program with another 30,000 arriving in fiscal 2022, which begins Oct. 1. Funding would go to the Defense, State, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments.
Demands for hurricane relief legislation grew last week when the entire Louisiana delegation, including fiscally conservative Republicans like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, wrote to President Joe Biden calling for a boost in funds.
The money, if approved, would be attached to a stopgap spending bill that’s needed because Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 regular appropriations bills to fund government operations for the coming fiscal year. That bill would be expected to put government spending largely on autopilot into November or December.
A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that it’s clear a short-term continuing resolution will be needed and that guidance for the bill will be released and sent to Congress later Tuesday. The official noted that assessments on the need for assistance tied to Hurricane Ida are still under way.
With the federal debt ceiling having come back into effect in August, at a level of $28.4 trillion, Democrats could try to attach legislation suspending or raising it to the stopgap spending bill. But such a move could risk a government shutdown for a time, as 46 out of the 50 Senate Republicans have signed a letter saying they wouldn’t vote for any new increase. Regular government spending bills need 60 votes in the Senate.
Asked about a debt-ceiling increase, the senior official reiterated calls by the White House and Democratic congressional leaders for the legislature to raise the limit in a bipartisan way.
Senate Democrats are expected to make decisions about pursuing the stopgap bill and a debt ceiling hike when they return to Washington for a caucus meeting on Sept. 14.
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