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As Harvey continues to slam the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, Congress is already starting to plan how to address the need for disaster recovery, rebuilding of infrastructure, and reshaping of affected areas.
The debate over funding has already been reignited political conflict between Texas Republicans who voted against Hurricane Sandy aid and some lawmakers from the Northeast. But it is virtually guaranteed that Congress will pass sort of package will be passed by Congress soon after it returns from its August recess.
Based on current negotiations and discussions, it appears there are three avenues Congress could take:
- Multiple, targeted bills: According to Politico’s Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris, one idea from Republicans is to dole out money for Harvey relief over a series of bills that target specific needs. “My view has always been that multiple bills are fine, but you’re better off to pass multiple bills knowing what the costs are than some number that no one can really justify,” Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told Politico.One major standalone relief package: Most major storms of the past few decades have received a lump sum from the federal government spent over time via various agencies. A week after Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed a nearly $52 billion bill. Two months after Hurricane Sandy, it passed a $50 billion package. Many Republicans, however criticized the lump approach after Sandy. But one bill would provide a down payment for a large portion of the recovery needs. Attach the bill to another must-pass piece of legislation: Another option that has been floated is attaching the relief package to a must-pass piece of legislation like a bill to raise the debt ceiling or a continuing resolution to fund the government. Such legislation would make it tough for members to vote against the package, while also drawing more support to a large relief package.
GOP Sen. Tom Cole told Politico that Congress could take time to assess the damage of the storm, but he stressed the body would pass something. Thirty-four GOP senators votes against aid for Hurricane Sandy.
“Most of the people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote during the Sandy thing, now the shoe’s on the other foot,” Cole said.