Conservatives Urged to Vote Down Relief Package that Includes Wildfire Help and Bailout of Flood Insurance Program
The House is expected to vote today on a $36.5 billion disaster relief package that includes $18.7 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund and $577 million to help states fighting wildfires.
At least 21 people are dead and hundreds are unaccounted for in 22 wildfires in Northern California, the second deadliest wildfire outbreak of the last century. Thousands are in evacuation centers.
The fires have burned about 170,000 acres, an area larger than the city of Chicago. More than 3,500 homes and businesses were destroyed.
“These funds are vital right now, in the near term, to get the aid where it is needed most,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)
A two-thirds vote will be required to pass the bill in the House. The conservative group Heritage Action is urging GOP lawmakers to vote no. The bill includes canceling $16 billion in debts for the nation’s flood insurance program.
“The administration’s request to treat a $16 billion bailout for the failing federal flood insurance program as an emergency is irresponsible,” said Dan Holler, the Heritage Action vice president.
The national flood program is scheduled to expire Dec. 8.
The FEMA funding includes $4.9 billion in low-interest Treasury loans for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help keep the government operating.
The emergency spending bill does not include requests from Texas, which wanted $18.7 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief, and from Florida, which wanted $27 billion to rebuild after Irma.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the House Ways and Means chairman, said a larger aid package that includes requests from Texas and Florida could come in a month.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.
Trump has approved federal emergency assistance for California that provides money to clear debris, search and rescue efforts, and supplies for evacuation centers.
The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for northern California through Thursday afternoon.