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UPDATE 2-US Republicans Say Will Move Disaster Aid Quickly

Monday, 12 Sep 2011 02:58 PM

 

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* Disaster aid will be added to must-pass spending bill

* Republicans say not interested in brinkmanship

(New throughout with Cantor, details, byline)

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republicans said Monday they will try to approve disaster aid next week to ensure that the government doesn't run out of money to help victims of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster-relief fund running dangerously low, top Republicans in the House of Representatives said they will attach additional funding to a must-pass spending bill that would keep the government operating beyond Sept. 30.

"Thousands of homes and businesses, as well as basic infrastructure, have been damaged by Mother Nature over the last year, and it is the duty of my committee and this Congress to ensure that the federal government is providing the relief and recovery that our people are relying on," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said in a prepared statement.

President Barack Obama requested $5.1 billion last week to help victims of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters in one of the most extreme years for weather in U.S. history.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will need about $500 million to ensure it doesn't run out of money in the next several weeks, according to the White House.

FEMA has already suspended some payments for longer-term projects to ensure that money remains for the more pressing needs of victims of last month's Hurricane Irene and other recent disasters.

Some Republicans have suggested that they will try to offset that money with spending cuts elsewhere, but have emphasized that budget concerns won't delay the aid.

Republicans said they would attach the money -- between $500 million and roughly $1 billion -- to a stopgap spending bill that is expected to clear Congress next week.

The two chambers must pass that bill by the end of the month to ensure that the government will be able to keep operating when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

Budget battles have pushed the country to the edge of default and the brink of a government shutdown this year, but that's not likely to be the case with this spending bill, a top Republican said.

"The risk of bringing about brinkmanship or another potential shutdown is not something now that we need, it is not something that would be helpful to create jobs and regain confidence," said Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House. (Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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