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Congress Debates Where To Get Federal Disaster Funding

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The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security meets to discuss disaster funding.
Matt Laslo
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security meets to discuss disaster funding.

A string of federal disasters along the east coast and in the region has sparked a debate on Capitol Hill over how to come up with money for the emergencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA has less than $700 million in its disaster fund, so it’s had to put long term rebuilding priorities on hold as it assists victims of disasters.

The House allocated an extra $1 billion for emergency funding earlier this year, but Senate Democrats opposed the plan because it paid for the disaster relief by defunding a program to spur hybrid vehicle development. Now, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), is once again calling for any increases in emergency funding to be offset with budget cuts elsewhere.

But Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says the debate over paying for emergency assistance shouldn’t impede the government’s response. "I think you have to find ways over a period of time that it’s paid back, but there are lots of folks in need right now and those needs need to be met," Warner says.

 

By the end of September, Congress is expected to pass a temporary spending bill to keep the government funded through the rest of the year. There’s a possibility new emergency funding could be included in that legislation, although party leaders still haven’t forged an agreement. 

Cantor has also received push-back for his stance from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who recently had an earthquake and a hurricane rattle large swaths of his state. Senate Democrats are vowing to pass emergency funding with no strings attached, but it’s still unclear if the House will go along with their plan.

 

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