September was already shaping up to be the month from hell for a warring Republican party and the nation it is supposed to be governing. Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath have magnified that ten-fold, at least.
Officials won’t have a grasp on losses for weeks to come, but President Donald Trump said Monday that he will soon request disaster relief from Capitol Hill.
“I think you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president. You’re going to get your funding,” Trump said at a news conference. “I’ve already spoken to Congress, and everybody feels for you.”
For their part, GOP congressional leaders aren’t yet giving concrete signs on how they might swoop in with assistance, but they could attach an emergency spending package to a continuing resolution needed to fund the government.
“We will help those affected by this terrible disaster,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong, adding that the first step in that process is a formal request for resources from the administration.
Some conservative Republicans are likely to balk at any increased spending, as they have after previous natural disasters — which could further inflame the conflict between the likes of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus and GOP leadership. Freedom Caucus officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on disaster relief, nor did several Texans in the group.
This is an opportunity, albeit an awful one, for all of the very difficult funding work Congress has to do to be completed with relative ease—attaching disaster relief to a short-term continuing resolution would make it awfully hard for most Republicans to oppose. It might even make it hard for Trump to threaten to veto, even if it doesn’t fund his wall. It is Trump, however, so that’s by no means a given.
Just a reminder of what’s at stake next month, though: Congress must pass a budget to keep government running, raise the debt ceiling, reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, reauthorize the Flood Insurance Program, appropriate funding to stabilize Obamacare’s marketplaces, and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. Getting all that done, in the middle of Trump’s relentless feuding with Republicans, it a very tall order for any Congress. For one that’s proven as incompetent as this one so far, it’s looking pretty impossible.