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White House warns that GOP shutdown would cut off key disaster relief funds

The Biden administration said if a shutdown occurs, nearly 2,000 projects would experience delays.

By Oliver Willis - September 29, 2023
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Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to media after leaving the House floor at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, September 28, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to media after leaving the House floor at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, September 28, 2023. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

The White House warned on Thursday that a government shutdown triggered by the actions of congressional Republicans could significantly delay funding for disaster recovery projects across the country.

Congress has not yet passed spending bills to fund the government. If no legislation is passed before the end of September, a partial shutdown of the federal government will occur.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country—including delaying long-term disaster recovery and undermining preparedness in communities across the country,” the White House said in a release.

Funds in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund have dwindled in recent months, and without new funding legislation, the agency has had to prioritize operations for immediate and life-sustaining needs.

Funds for programs to train and retain first responders and to purchase equipment used by local agencies would also become unavailable.

Projects that would be affected include the ongoing rebuilding of West Wilson Middle School in Tennessee, which was destroyed by a tornado in 2020. News Channel 5 in Nashville reported last year that officials there expected that FEMA would reimburse the county commission for 90% of projected expenses of more than $60 million.

The administration also said hundreds of millions of dollars put aside to help recovery efforts in Florida following Hurricane Ian in 2022 would be held up in the event of a shutdown.

The White House criticized House Republicans for passing a continuing resolution that would cut funding to multiple agencies, ignoring the bipartisan funding agreement agreed to by President Joe Biden and Congress and signed into law in June.

House Republicans have pursued the passage of partisan spending bills while at the same time the Senate, led by Democrats, has passed legislation to fund the government with bipartisan support. Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would not consider the Senate legislation, despite the threat of a shutdown. McCarthy told reporters on Thursday the House would be able to pass a bill to avoid a shutdown, but it remains unclear whether he has enough votes from his caucus to do so.

As the threat of a shutdown has increased, House Republicans have continued to pursue an impeachment inquiry into Biden. An opinion poll from NBC News released on Thursday found that 56% of registered voters oppose impeachment hearings.

The federal government has experienced five shutdowns since 1995, all of which took place while Republicans held a majority in the House. There were two shutdowns under former President Donald Trump, in January 2018 and from December 2018 to January 2019.

According to a report released in January 2019 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the last shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion and negatively affected the country’s gross domestic product. A poll released that same month by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 53% of respondents blamed Trump and congressional Republicans for the shutdown.

In remarks at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Biden called on Republicans to take the steps necessary to avert another shutdown.

“If we have a government shutdown, a lot of vital work in science and health could be impacted, from cancer research to food safety. So, the American people need our Republican friends in the House of Representatives to do their job: fund the government,” Biden said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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