President Trump sends $7.9 billion Harvey aid request to Congress

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Saturday, September 2, 2017
Trump arrives in Texas
Trump arrives in Texas: Matt O'Donnell reports during Action News at Noon on August 29, 2017.

The Latest on President Donald Trump's promise of help after Hurricane Harvey (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers a $7.9 billion request for an initial down payment for Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

The request, expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, would add $7.4 billion to rapidly dwindling Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid coffers and $450 million to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

The initial Harvey package is just the first installment for immediate disaster response like housing assistance, cleanup and FEMA-financed home repairs. The White House says more than 436,000 households have registered for FEMA aid.

The request also reiterates the need for Congress to increase the government's $19.9 trillion borrowing limit by the end of this month. Republicans are signaling that they may link the unpopular debt limit increase to Harvey relief.


8:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump's request for an initial down payment for Harvey relief and recovery efforts is growing.

A senior GOP source in Washington says Trump's request to refill rapidly shrinking Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster coffers is going up by about $2 billion, bringing the total for the looming disaster aid package about $8 billion.

The request is expected to be officially released Friday night. Earlier, the White House had said the request would total $5.5 billion for FEMA and $450 million for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program.

But FEMA is spending money at a faster rate, causing the White House to redraft the aid package.

The GOP source spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is not yet public.


1:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is thanking disaster relief organizations helping victims of Harvey.

The president was joined in the Oval Office by leaders of the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Trump says the people of Texas and Louisiana have taught Americans "a powerful lesson" with their resilience and strength. He says there's been an "outbreak of compassion" that has inspired the nation.

Trump will be going to Texas and Louisiana on Saturday to survey the damage from the storm. He traveled to Texas earlier in the week.


1:10 p.m.

Congressional Republicans plan to use a disaster relief package for Harvey as the vehicle to pass a contentious increase in the federal debt limit.

That's according to a senior House Republican who spoke on condition of anonymity because deliberations were private.

House Republicans expect to approve an initial $5.9 billion package in Harvey aid in the next week or two. They'll send it to the Senate, where the debt limit increase would be attached and sent back to the House for final approval.

The plan ignores objections from House conservatives who've warned GOP leaders not to use Harvey aid as the vehicle to increase the United States' $19.9 trillion debt limit. The limit must be increased by late September to permit the government to continue borrowing money to pay its bills.


1:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is signing a proclamation establishing Sunday as a day of prayer for those dealing with the aftermath of Harvey.

The president is commending the families and rescue workers dealing with the remnants of the massive storm in Texas and Louisiana.

He says everyone involved has the same goal: To help people facing devastating losses.

Trump was joined in the Oval Office by religious leaders and members of faith-based groups on Friday.

The president is returning to Texas on Saturday to survey flood damage and is also expected to travel to Louisiana to review recovery efforts from the storm.


9:35 a.m.

The White House is readying a request to Congress for an initial $5.9 billion package in Harvey aid. It would be a first down payment to ensure recovery efforts over the next few weeks are adequately funded.

The Trump proposal is being finalized pending White House consultations with key Republicans. It is likely to be just a fraction of an eventual Harvey recovery package that could rival the $100 billion spent on Hurricane Katrina relief.

A senior administration official said the plan will be sent to Congress on Friday and House and Senate votes appear likely next week. The official was not authorized to release the information publicly before a final decision is made and spoke on condition of anonymity.


8:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says there is still "so much to do" for Texas to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Trump will travel again to Texas on Saturday.

Trump tweeted Friday that "Texas is heeling (sic) fast thanks to all of the great men & women who have been working so hard." He later corrected the spelling of "healing."

But he says, "still, so much to do."

Trump has proposed federal hiring and budget plans that raise questions about his promised recovery effort.

He also tweeted Friday to praise his new chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and criticize former FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.


8:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump's hiring and budget plans are raising questions about whether he can deliver the "better-than-ever" recovery he's promised after Hurricane Harvey.

In the week since Harvey dumped record rain and floods along swaths of the U.S. Gulf Coast, Trump has visited the region and showered praise on the responders. His administration is preparing a $5.9 billion emergency request to replenish FEMA's rapidly draining disaster reserves.

But Trump is not backing off billions of dollars in proposed budget cuts in agencies involved in disaster management or his decision to leave some leadership positions vacant. The president also has said he views the disaster relief as money apart from the proposed cuts.

He has also pledged $1 million in personal funds for disaster recovery.