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House expected to vote Wednesday on Hurricane Harvey disaster aid package

  • September 05, 2017

WASHINGTON — Having just returned from a monthlong recess, the House is racing to vote Wednesday on a nearly $7.9 billion disaster aid package to help Texas and Louisiana rebuild in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The measure is the first of several installments Congress is expected to consider.

The Senate is expected to follow suit possibly later this week with a vote on a relief package, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled Tuesday that the measure could be tied to efforts by Republican leaders and President Trump to also raise the nation’s debt limit. 

“I know that securing this emergency funding is very important for the president and I know that preventing a default or (government) shutdown amidst such a historic natural disaster is also very important to him,’’ McConnell said on the Senate floor. “And even more so with another major hurricane on the way.”

Hurricane Irma is headed toward islands in the Caribbean and is could hit Florida later in the week.

McConnell said his top priorities are passing a disaster aid bill, preventing a government default and funding the government. 

“We have get all three of these things done and we have to do it very quickly,” he said. “In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large cost of storm recovery.”

Trump requested a first installment of emergency spending, including $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund and $450,000 for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the funding will help states affected by Hurricane Harvey with immediate recovery efforts.

“It is time to come together as a country to help one another and assist the individuals, families, and communities who have suffered so greatly,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement Monday. “These funds are needed and they are needed now.”

Harvey, which came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, caused major flooding in Texas, killing at least 60 people and destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

The storm also drenched coastal Louisiana several days later.

State and federal officials are still calculating the cost of damages, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said it could exceed $125 billion in his state.

Trump visited the region Saturday, touring areas in Texas hit hard by Harvey and stopping briefly in Louisiana. The president, who had also gone to Texas earlier last week, vowed to push Congress to act quickly on disaster relief.

“We’ve pledged our full support as Texas and Louisiana battle and recover from this very devastating and historic storm,” Trump said.

The disaster relief fund had about $1 billion as of Sept. 5, according to FEMA. Of that, $541 million was immediately available for response and recovery efforts related to Harvey.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called this week’s disaster aid package the “first step.’’

“Families and communities affected by Hurricane Harvey have a long road ahead, and the House will be with them every step of the way,” he said in statement.

Read more:

Trump: Hurricane Harvey recovery response ‘a wonderful thing’

Hurricane Harvey relief fund started by J.J. Watt hits $20 million

Congress has crucial to-do list in September: What lawmakers must accomplish

The House relief bill is not tied to debt limit.

Some conservative lawmakers have raised concerns the Senate will try to tie the aid to an effort to raise the debt ceiling to allow the government to borrow more money.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has warned the government will run out of money to pay its bills by Sept. 29 unless lawmakers vote to raise the debt limit.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said his panel is also ready to move quickly on disaster aid.

“Our committee is prepared to do its part to make resources available to those affected by Hurricane Harvey through the Disaster Relief Fund and other federal channels,’’ he said in a statement.

Money for agency’s disaster relief fund has been a divisive issue in Congress in the past, with some Democrats arguing it should be approved immediately to help disaster victims and spur recovery efforts and some Republicans demanding that any increase in disaster aid be contingent on spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.

The push for more Harvey aid could also face challenges from conservative lawmakers who have raised concerns about disaster aid packages that include funds for unrelated projects.

Contributing: Erin Kelly and Gregory Korte

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Paul England, Jr. helps Michael Brown, not pictured, search for belongings inside his flooded home, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, in Port Arthur, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. 
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Alice Liu (from left), 6, Harper Norton, 3, Linda Liu, 11, and Vickie Liu, 3, wait while their moms, including Jianhong Sue (right) register the older children for school at the Flour Bluff Independent School District. Their home school district will be closed indefinitely. 
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  • With one fan already running in this bedroom, Helen1 of 150
  • Willie Neal takes apart a bed on the first floor after2 of 150
  • Ann Neal picks up cleaning supplies and toiletries3 of 150
  • Imana Malbroue, 10, looks at her mother's iPad as she,4 of 150
  • Eric Rice, a graduate student of the civil and environmental5 of 150
  • Hay bales are pushed from a Michigan Army National6 of 150
  • Volunteers and residents help the Michigan Army National7 of 150
  • Insurance officials work among flooded cars at a racetrack8 of 150
  • Gaston Kirby walks through floodwater inside his home9 of 150
  • Workers repair a section of Union Pacific railroad10 of 150
  • Jesus Ramirez removes the wood floors from his home11 of 150
  • Jesus Ramirez removes the wood floors from his home12 of 150
  • Anna Ucheomumu, left, high fives Houston Texans defensive13 of 150
  • Volunteers unload a truck of relief supplies for people14 of 150
  • Houston Texans defensive end Christian Covington carries15 of 150
  • Tom Powell takes a moment on the porch of his flooded16 of 150
  • Justin Schultz uses a tractor to help remove debris17 of 150
  • LaMarcus McCray drives a boat through a flooded neighborhood18 of 150
  • Volunteer Max Stenger, left, embraces flood victim19 of 150
  • Church members are seen through the window of a water20 of 150
  • Terri Bubb, left, and Nita Clements sing a hymn on21 of 150
  • Pastor Kathy Sebring, left, leads church elders in22 of 150
  • Elvira Vera jumps out of her car to embrace Houston23 of 150
  • Dave Pauli, with the Humane Society of the United States24 of 150
  • Cruz Dargas carries a deer head as he volunteers his25 of 150
  • Evacuee Anne Stokes works on her tablet computer at26 of 150
  • Volunteers pick through clothing while shopping for27 of 150
  • Harry Decour hugs a church member after prayers were28 of 150
  • Becky May wipes away tears as she prays with members29 of 150
  • A volunteer heads out into a neighborhood in Orange,30 of 150
  • Tim Wilson, with his dog Koa, attends a makeshift outdoor31 of 150
  • Cara Crawford, turns around after trying to ride her32 of 150
  • A crucifix stands in front of a flooded church in the33 of 150
  • Deacon Scott Glueck, right, talks with a woman in the34 of 150
  • Parishioners of the Lakewood Church led by Pastor Joel35 of 150
  • Robert Licatino helps his son clean up his auto body36 of 150
  • A street is covered with floodwater on Sept. 3, 201737 of 150
  • Members of the Cypress Creek Christian Church hold38 of 150
  • Floodwater surrounds a home on Sept. 3, 2017 in Orange,39 of 150
  • Search and rescue teams go into a mobile home community40 of 150
  • Sam Byers, an EMT from Arlington, Texas, wades past41 of 150
  • Bill Zang of Rockport, IL carries out cases of water42 of 150
  • A search and rescue boat sits wrecked up against railroad43 of 150
  • Volunteers from Tampa, FL, and Milwaukee, WI, led search44 of 150
  • Malcolm Hunt of Milwaukee, WI, takes off his boot which45 of 150
  • Amy Torres hugs her brother Cody Adams, of Beaumont,46 of 150
  • H.E.B. Grocery employees hand out hot lunches for those47 of 150
  • A car turns around where the Neches River overflows48 of 150
  • A construction vehicle leaves the entrance of the Beaumont49 of 150
  • President Trump poses for a as he hands out food at50 of 150
  • Trish Huddleston and Allie Coogan came out to show51 of 150
  • Workers pick up debris in a staircase of a four-story52 of 150
  • A man kayaks back to his house in a neighborhood which53 of 150
  • Residents hold signs at a roadblock into their Canyon54 of 150
  • Michael Brown walks outside his flooded home, as he55 of 150
  • Fredi Ochoa removes wood from a home damaged by floodwaters56 of 150
  • Paul England, Jr. helps Michael Brown, not pictured,57 of 150
  • Paul England pilots his boat through floodwaters in58 of 150
  • Marine veterans Rocky Damico (L) and Jeremy Reed with59 of 150
  • People line up to receive food and water from a Salvation60 of 150
  • Amy Carbo and John Carbo (L-R) help remove waterlogged61 of 150
  • Marlet Rodriguez and her daughter, Nadia Jimenez, look62 of 150
  • Joseph Boutte walks through his home damaged by floodwaters63 of 150
  • Tibisay Vegas cleans out her car after it was inundated64 of 150
  • Clotilde Soto, Resujio Hernanez and Emiliano Soto (L-R)65 of 150
  •  A Harrison County Sheriff gives out a box of MRE's66 of 150
  • Dry wall, furniture and carpets sit outside of Staci67 of 150
  • Nick Sissa bought a military vehicle for the fun of68 of 150
  • This is the flooded Buffalo Bayou near downtown Houston,69 of 150
  • The struggle continues...  Jenna Fountain and her70 of 150
  • An alligator moves along flood waters from the Guadalupe71 of 150
  • Homes are submerged by water from the flooded Brazos72 of 150
  • Sasha Ryder, dressed as Harley Quinn, hugs Jasmine73 of 150
  • People begin the process of cleaning up the damage74 of 150
  • Gonzalo Jimenez Macias surveys a damaged trailer home75 of 150
  • Evacuees who were rescued by boat and high water vehicles76 of 150
  • Dustin Baxter (from left) registers his daughters Khylynn77 of 150
  • Alice Liu (from left), 6, Harper Norton, 3, Linda Liu,78 of 150
  • National Guards troops will be helping out with recovery79 of 150
  • Rescue crews assist residents in Port Arthur, Texas80 of 150
  • An airboat travels along a flooded road in the aftermath,81 of 150
  • Vicki Hartzell takes a break from cleaning her townhouse,82 of 150
  • Hope Shoemaker (left), 13, and Olivia Adams, 13, pick83 of 150
  • Rising water still covers a country road in Sargent,84 of 150
  • Residents recover from damage to their homes after85 of 150
  • Residents post a warning, Friday, to looters as they86 of 150
  • Doug Leblanc cleans out his father's fridge from his87 of 150
  • Blake Kuklin prepares to rescue more peoplle at Eldridge88 of 150
  • This is the flooded Buffalo Bayou near downtown Houston,89 of 150
  • Family members of Frances Cirilo helped her clear out90 of 150
  • Deidra Cate is comforted by Vice President Mike Pence91 of 150
  • Theresa Reyes, RN BSN Operations Director and Estaban92 of 150
  • Survivors of Hurricane Harvey wait  at a shelter while93 of 150
  • Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey surround homes94 of 150
  • Cars drive through flooded streets from Tropical Storm95 of 150
  • This is a satellite image of the flooding around Houston96 of 150
  • Floodwaters fill the road running through the Lakes97 of 150
  • Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following98 of 150
  • A patient waits for rescue from a health care facility99 of 150
  • Rescuers, some trained first responders and other volunteers100 of 150
  • First responders and volunteers help to evacuate the101 of 150
  • A patient waits for rescue from a health care facility102 of 150
  • Kim Weatherford surveys the damage at his vacation103 of 150
  • An overhead view of Copano Cove in Rockport, Texas104 of 150
  • Homeowners have painted signs warning looters throughout105 of 150
  • An Aerial view of Hurricane Harvey damage in Port Aransas,106 of 150
  • An Aerial view of Hurricane Harvey damage in Port Aransas,107 of 150
  • Hurricane Harvey damage in Port Aransas, Texas on Aug.108 of 150
  • Rescuers, some trained first responders and other volunteers,109 of 150
  • Residents are rescued from a Port Arthur, Texas nursing110 of 150
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner greets a resident in111 of 150
  • Jaylen Welch, 10, carries her belongings out of the112 of 150
  • Rescue workers and volunteers help to rescue residents113 of 150
  • Family members react as a van is pulled out of the114 of 150
  • A car sits submerged on the I-10 East Frontage Road115 of 150
  • A man files a missing person report for his father116 of 150
  • Ronnie 'Merlot' Coleman, Jr., cuts Jermaine Brown's117 of 150
  • People wait in line to buy groceries at a Food Town118 of 150
  • People shop at a Food Town grocery store during the119 of 150
  • Steven Reinitz helps remove items damaged by floodwaters120 of 150
  • Friends reunite in the middle of a flooded intersection121 of 150
  • Michael Saghian walks across the living room of his122 of 150
  • Cars sit along the street in an apartment complex after123 of 150
  • Michael Boyd passes his son Skylar over to a rescue124 of 150
  • Jose Martinez, left, and William Majano remove drywall125 of 150
  • Gladys Dasi holds her two-month-old son Elliott while126 of 150
  • Flood victims of Harvey go through supply lines at127 of 150
  • A resident checks the depth of water outside his home128 of 150
  • Residents living around the Energy Corridor of west129 of 150
  • Jose Martinez works to remove drywall from a home damaged130 of 150
  • Tiffaany Duron and her daughter Emma Sledge, 3, hug131 of 150
  • Sheri Gagliano collects toys from the damaged home132 of 150
  • Sheri Gagliano collects toys from the damaged home133 of 150
  • Howard Hoffmann looks through his damaged home following134 of 150
  • AEP workers repair power poles following Hurricane135 of 150
  • Tina Suarez gets a hot meal from an H-E-B employee136 of 150
  • People line up for a hot meal, water, ice and bread137 of 150
  • Volunteers and first responders work together to rescue138 of 150
  • Miguel Santiago cleans debris outside a friends home139 of 150
  • Volunteers and first responders rescue residents from140 of 150
  • Mary Jackson, center, was rescued by local residents141 of 150
  • A family pet is rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane142 of 150
  • Lance Esswein digs through the rubble of his wife's143 of 150
  • Aug 29, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Water floods I-10 on144 of 150
  • Volunteers and first responders work together to rescue145 of 150
  • Volunteers and first responders work together to rescue146 of 150
  • Businesses in downtown Rockport, Texas received extensive147 of 150
  • Will Lewis helps direct an evacuee to a transport truck148 of 150
  • Volunteers and first responders help rescue Houston149 of 150
  • Vivian Bell watches her grand children, Kevin Bass,150 of 150

 

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