- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The White House budget office on Tuesday urged Congress to spend more than $30 billion to fund natural disaster aid and the resettlement of Afghan refugees as part of a stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown.

The White House is seeking $14 billion in aid to address natural disasters that occurred before Hurricane Ida and another $6.4 billion to cover the cost of relocating tens of thousands Afghans who assisted the U.S. over the past 20 years.

In addition, the administration said it expects to ask Congress for another $10 billion in disaster relief because of the damage wrought by Hurricane Ida.

White House Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young asked Congress to attach the funds to a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The federal government is set to shut down on Sept. 30, unless lawmakers approve a stopgap measure, known as a short-term continuing resolution that would keep the government funded at its current level.

If the measure passes, it would only temporarily keep the government funded through late November or December.

However, the measure would extend the government spending levels as the previous fiscal year until Congress passes a fiscal year 2021 appropriation bill.

The White House’s plea for additional funding is likely to meet opposition from GOP lawmakers, who will likely bristle at the cost to settle Afghan refugees.

A majority of Senate Republicans last week signed a letter saying they wouldn’t vote for any spending increases. Any spending bill requires at least 60 votes in the Senate, a difficult task with Democrats’ slim majority — only the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala D. Harris.

More than 65,000 vulnerable Afghans are expected to arrive in the U.S. by the end of September with an additional 30,000 scheduled to arrive over the next 12 months, a White House official said.

Most of the $6.4 billion requested will be used to help Afghan allies adjust to life in the United States. It would help cover the cost of health and background screenings as well as process Afghans arriving in the U.S. from other locations.

Some of the funds would also go to the U.S. Agency for International Development to assist at-risk Afghans who remain in the beleaguered country.

The $14 billion for disaster relief, meanwhile, would cover the damage from Hurricanes Laura and Delta along with the wildfires in California. At least another $10 billion in funding will be needed to address the damage from Hurricane Ida, the administration official said.

Although the Biden administration is not making the official request for those funds right now, an exact funding request could come within the next few weeks, the official said.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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