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House GOP plans $81b disaster relief for hurricanes, fires

A car was abandoned after heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, in August.MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images/File

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Monday unveiled an $81 billion disaster aid package to help hurricane-ravaged communities and states hit by wildfires, almost double the amount requested by President Trump.

GOP leaders promised a vote this week on the measure, which would bring the total provided in response to this year’s devastating round of hurricanes to more than $130 billion — exceeding the cost to taxpayers of Hurricane Katrina.

The emergency aid would provide $26 billion for community development block grants, which would help Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean rebuild, along with Western states recovering from wildfires.

There’s funding for prevention of future flooding, highway repairs, and help for small businesses. There’s almost $28 billion for the government’s chief disaster aid account, $4 billion of which could be used to help cash-strapped governments such as Puerto Rico’s stay afloat.


‘‘We have a commitment to our fellow citizens that are in the midst of major rebuilding efforts,’’ said Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Republican of New Jersey, who sponsored the measure. ‘‘They deserve our continued support, and we must provide the necessary resources for them to recover from these emergencies.’’

The package also would provide $2.6 billion for farm disasters. Florida lawmakers have said citrus crops in their state have been suffering.

‘‘It’s a big win for Florida’s agriculture,’’ said Representative Tom Rooney, Republican of Florida.

Last month, Trump requested $44 billion, his third emergency request since hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria slammed the Gulf Coast and Caribbean. The request sparked howls from lawmakers from hurricane-hit states.

‘‘While it was not everything, it was further than the administration proposed,’’ Representative Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, said Monday.

The disaster measure is one of many items on Capitol Hill’s unfinished agenda. It also promises to deliver votes for a plan by House GOP leaders to prevent a government shutdown at midnight Friday, but it’s unclear whether the emergency relief would be paired with the stopgap spending bill or advance separately.


House Republican leaders have announced a plan to pair a huge Pentagon funding bill with record spending increases with a stopgap spending measure called a continuing resolution that would keep the rest of the government running at current levels through Jan. 19.

The House GOP plan has little chance of surviving in the Senate, though. Unlike the tax bill, which is advancing under special filibuster-proof procedures, Democratic votes are needed to pass the year-end measure.

Earlier, the Senate’s top Republican announced a lengthy wish list that he hopes to attach to a must-do stopgap bill this week, but there’s no agreement with the chamber’s Democrats.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing the measure as a shortcut to power several other items into law, including hurricane relief, a renewal of a children’s health insurance program, and funding to stabilize health insurance markets.

But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has other priorities, chiefly protection from deportation of immigrants commonly referred to as ‘‘Dreamers’’ and securing spending increases for domestic agencies to match huge budget increases sought by defense hawks for the Pentagon.

The must-pass spending bill would be the main item of congressional business remaining after Republicans wrap up action on their hard-fought tax bill on Tuesday. Lawmakers are eager to head home for the holidays.

But Democrats are demanding that Trump fulfill pledges to address the immigration issue, which involves protections for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and who have often known no other home than the United States.


‘‘We need action on Dreamers, and we need our Republican colleagues to cooperate,’’ Schumer said.

Republicans leaders don’t want to take on the politically explosive issue of immigration this year but promise it will be taken care of next year. Lawmakers could do the bare minimum to avert a shutdown and punt almost all the rest of the issues into the new year.