Senate Passes, President Signs Latest Emergency Spending Bill

The Senate passed the latest emergency spending bill on October 24 to pay for ongoing relief from the recent natural disasters. The bill includes $18.7 billion for FEMA’s response to natural disasters, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the California wildfires. Also in the package is a $16 billion increase in the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) borrowing limit, $576.5 million to address wildfires in the West, and $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance programs that will provide relief to low income Puerto Rican residents. The bill does not include additional funds for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR), which were requested by the Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico congressional delegations. The Senate voted 82 to 17 to approve the spending bill, which the president signed on October 26.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) sought additional funding for Florida’s distressed citrus industry and for housing needs in Florida. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) also sought more funding for Texas communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. They initially threatened to hold up the vote, but they relented when given assurances by the Trump administration that Texas and Florida’s concerns would be addressed in the next supplemental funding legislation before the end of the year. Despite those assurances, Senator Cornyn is blocking a vote to confirm the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget until additional disaster recovery and rebuilding funding is provided.

Indications are that OMB may urge Congress to make spending offsets in other areas to pay for any new disaster recovery or rebuilding funding, which could make passage of the third disaster funding bill much more difficult.