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Congress to Vote on Harvey Relief Bill on Wednesday

by Countable | 9.5.17

What’s the story?

Congress is back in session, and one of their first orders of business is Hurricane Harvey relief. The overall cost of the relief effort is expected to dwarf all previous disaster funding, but Congress is only expected to vote on an initial funding bill this week to restock the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) coffers.

Why does it matter?

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) estimated to the Washington Post recovery efforts could cost well over $200 billion dollars, well beyond the $120 billion spent on Hurricane Katrina recovery:

"Texas is a big state so the swath that has been damaged meets probably the scale of Sandy. Houston is a very congested city – it’s a very large place geographically, along with the county. We have expansive housing stock, we may have lost 30,000 to 40,000 homes, or at least they’ve been damaged."

In addition to housing stock there will be vehicle losses or damage, the costs to rebuild hospitals, nursing homes, shopping centers, and many Texas residents do not have flood insurance.

So far, the package being prepped for Congress to debate tomorrow is approximately $7.85 billion, according to HuffPo. The package includes $7.4 billion earmarked for FEMA’s disaster relief fund. The money would replenish FEMA coffers so it can continue Harvey efforts as well as address other disasters. The other $450 million would go to the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program, which helps individuals and small businesses begin rebuilding their homes.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated over the weekend that Congress would have to vote on an increase to the debt ceiling along with Harvey funding. The government was on track to run out of money to cover its debts as of September 29, but Mnuchin says that the unexpected addition of funding for Harvey relief may shorten that timeline:

Tying Harvey relief funding to raising the debt ceiling, whether in this initial package or in a larger funding bill before the end of September, is likely to agitate far-right Republicans who have opposed raising the debt limit. The expectation, however, is that tying the debt limit vote to Harvey relief funding will make it more likely to pass.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress approved a $52 billion relief bill within a week. By 2012, growing contention around government spending and the debt ceiling slowed the approval of relief funding after Hurricane Sandy. It took Congress two months to approve an initial relief bill of $50 billion for Hurricane Sandy.

Lawmakers may try to strike a balance this time between meeting funding needs efficiently and controlling spending. GOP lawmakers told Politico that they are considering approving multiple, smaller bills targeted to specific needs rather than a single, large package. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters last week:

"My view has always been that multiple bills are fine, but you’re better off to pass multiple bills knowing what the costs are [rather] than some number that no one can really justify."

What do you think?

Do you think Congress should tie relief funding to raising the debt limit? Should they approve a single, large package like with previous disasters, or multiple, smaller packages? Would Congressional partisanship and gridlock make one big package or many smaller packages more successful?

Tell us in the comments, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: US Dept of Defense / Creative Commons)

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(19)
  • Denise
    09/05/2017
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    Yes, they should raise the debt ceiling and give a downpayment for the Harvey Flood victims. But it's such a small amount and much more will be needed. I'm worried that if the Republicans get away with their " tax cuts for the wealthy" reform, and the huge budget cuts that are proposed, there won't be any money left for Harvey relief. I know that Republicans keep chanting that government should be smaller but this is the kind of Crisis that government is there for and it's what our taxes should be used for.

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  • Sherri
    09/05/2017
    ···

    We need more than just funding for these events. We need a government that is actively planning for more storms, more floods, more droughts, more wild fires. It's going to get worse, and without a plan, loss of life is going to be much farther reaching than just the immediately effected areas. Think about the effect all of this will eventually have on our food supplies, and our ability to access clean water.

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  • Kodiwodi
    09/05/2017
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    Hurricane relief should not in anyway be tied to raising the debt ceiling. Those people need their money now and there needs to be debate on the debt ceiling. Tying them together means we are passing must pass legislation with who knows what tied to it just to get hurricane relief to those in desperate need. This should be a no brainer. Something Congress excels at. Pass hurricane relief first. Then worry about your debt ceiling.

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  • KansasTamale
    09/05/2017
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    This hurricane relief is necessary and important, but the people in the west who have lost everything, including their ability to breathe the air in their areas have been denied help from the government & they have lost everything also. Raise the debt ceiling - a lot of that is the expenses the country is bearing because of the excesses of the Trump family - the tax code needs adjustment, but not the way Trump invisions it - no tax cuts for rich or corporations; in fact raise the tax on the rich so they pay the same comparatively that the middle & poor do. NO MONEY FOR THAT IDIOTIC WALL MOST AMERICANS ARE AGAINST, INCLUDING THE PEOPLE WHERE THE WALL IS GOING TO GO.

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  • Rebecca
    09/06/2017
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    Yes, of course we should send relief money to help the flood victims. When it comes to rebuilding, however, that money should have strings attached. Houston is infamous in the architecture and planning world for it's aversion to regulation, zoning and urban planning. The federal government should not be paying for people to rebuild the same way in flood plains. Houston should be charged with figuring out which areas should not be rebuilt but rather transformed into wetlands. If people do rebuild, they should be required to raise the structures on stilts like New Yorkers did after Sandy. The city should pay to right-size and upgrade their stormwater infrastructure. If the federal government gives money to rebuild, the city should build back assuming an equally bad storm will hit again in the near future. They need to build back better with higher standards and planning.

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  • Azrael
    09/05/2017
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    How kind When Irma or storm j trashes Jersey like Sandy did we expect the same speedy attention

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  • Jan
    09/05/2017
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    Your solution better be worth the wait. Expect a call from me if it's not.

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  • Brian
    09/05/2017
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    If you guys screw this up all hope is lost.

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  • Brenton
    09/08/2017
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    Why is there even a debate??!! Help the people who need it immediately and then talk politics!

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  • Maryellen
    09/05/2017
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    What took you so long? Oh right you all were on a vacation. Our government at its finest. (Not).

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  • BeStrong
    09/06/2017
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    Beyoncé Oprah Dell Sandra Bullock DiCaprio JJ Watt Tyler Perry Jamie Foxx Hillary Duff and many more give out of their own pockets (not their charities) for TX recovery. These folks that many think of as bleeding hearts are bleeding for Texas. Thanks all!

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  • Hillary
    09/06/2017
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    When Sandy hit us, it was disgusting watching Republicans politicize aid to NJ/NY. They treated our people like we didn't matter. I don't want that happening to victims of Harvey. Give them their relief funding without strings. Yes, the debt celling needs to be raised. Does that have to do with Harvey victims? I don't think so. Should we send relief through a million tiny bills? I don't think so. That will just waste time.

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  • John
    09/06/2017
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    Help Them but do not allow construction in a flood or wind zone that is not flood or wind proof.

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  • Amy
    09/06/2017
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    Definitely approve relief funding and raise the debt ceiling. In addition to that, it's time to revamp the National Flood Insurance program and the whole Flood Insurance Rate Map system. These maps need to start taking into account land cover. Too many of these people did not have flood insurance because they were technically outside of a floodplain eventhough most professionals will agree that the actual flooding itself was due to the fact that Houston has been developing and pouring concrete over wetlands for the past 30 years. All of these people *should* have been required to have flood insurance when they went through the mortgage process.

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  • Matthew
    09/06/2017
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    We need more than just funding for relief from Harvey. BUT, since this is about funding I have a few concerns: where is the money going to be funneled to, and will the government fully fund the rebuild of the areas devastated by Harvey? My concern of where the funds will go, I assume a huge chunk will go to corporations and companies that do business in the Texas Gulf region--THEY DO NOT DESERVE IT!!!! By striping regulations that help make sure chemicals not explode they are at fault for the explosion that have occurred (I know some have made regulations to make sure they don't explode and those companies should be applauded). THE MONEY SHOULD GO TO THE COMMUNITY AND THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY! Second concern I have is who is going to do the rebuild???? New Orleans was rebuilt by immigrants (legal and illegal), but the Manchurian has chased a large immigrant population away from the border states and MOST OF THE WORKFORCE needed to rebuild. Now conservatives would say good now we can hire American workers, BUT ARE THEY WILLING TO PAY AMERICAN WAGES???? Too bad we have worse than W. handling this operation. Oh and we have another hurricane handing to America. If only we had a grown up around to make decisions instead of the Manchurian Jeffery and his cronies. Heaven help us all . . .

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  • Gary
    09/06/2017
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    O yes wait till you get the Florida bill it will be worse

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  • Harry
    09/06/2017
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    why are they even voting on it just give it to them that need it in Texas there not gonna steal it and it should have been ready .. i won't play Obama Card either and say if Obama was in office because it's trump an should have been at the top of trump list not the wall or how big his hand are if any one show that when he was in Texas imo doing mucxh of nothing... or being up DACA he sohuld made sure they were take ncare of first that other stuff can wait .

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  • Skyler
    09/10/2017
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    Help Harvey and Irma

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  • Stuart
    09/05/2017
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    Time to STOP FOREIGN AID and USELESS PROGRAMS and use it to take care of our own. Put our people first for a change!

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