GOP aims to approve Harvey relief as soon as next week

Evacuees are pictured. | AP

An evacuee feeds a child at an emergency shelter at the Beaumont Civic Center in Beaumont, Texas, after Tropical Storm Harvey on Aug. 30. | Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

House Republicans are gearing up to pass a multibillion-dollar, short-term Hurricane Harvey relief package as early as next week, according to multiple congressional GOP sources.

No plans have been finalized. GOP leaders are waiting for White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to tell them exactly how much is needed by week’s end.

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But five GOP sources on both sides of the Capitol said the House could supply about $3 billion to $5 billion in disaster relief in the coming days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency currently has about $1.1 billion in an emergency account, but is burning through it quickly. And GOP sources believe the agency can re-allocate money with the help of Congress, but that would only buy a couple more days of emergency relief.

The costs of the natural disaster are rising quickly. Congressional sources worry that FEMA might run out of relief money within a week.

News of a pending package comes after Republicans from Texas and Louisiana pushed GOP leaders and the White House to act soon. Some in leadership had hoped to tie the emergency Harvey funding to a combined debt ceiling-government funding bill at the end of September.

But FEMA could well run out of cash before then. And GOP leaders have promised their rank-and-file from Texas and Louisiana they will not leave them waiting.

Still, any provision that advances next week would be merely a down payment. A much larger infusion of money is expected to be tied to the debt and spending package due at the end of the month.

Congress doled out $120 billion after Hurricane Katrina and $50 billion for Hurricane Sandy. The final price tag for Harvey could fall somewhere in between. White House officials and Capitol Hill sources say it could take weeks to determine the cost of the damages. But they expect additional Harvey bills to move through Congress this fall.

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