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Republicans may block disaster relief funds

by Jorge Hernandez on September 2, 2011

Government spending has been at the forefront of much of the debate in Washington, D.C., over the last several months, and it looks like the conversation will be starting up once again. The White House has requested Congress provide more than $5.2 billion in new disaster relief, but Republicans say the funding needs to be paid by cutting spending elsewhere, the Associated Press reports.

The request for money comes after a year that has seen a startling amount of natural disasters plaguing the country. In addition to the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irene, which stretched from North Carolina up through Vermont, Tennessee suffered from extensive flooding earlier this spring and tornadoes tore through parts of Missouri and Alabama.

"There is no question, however, that additional funds will be required to assist the thousands of Americans affected by Hurricane Irene, on top of the $5.2 billion identified under current law to properly fund known disaster needs for fiscal year 2012," White House budget director Jacob Lew said in a letter to top lawmakers, according to the AP.

There should not be a debate, the Obama Administration has said, because there was a provision in the debt-ceiling bill passed in August that the 2012 spending cap can be raised by 11.3 billion to pay for disaster relief. The Hill reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is running dangerously low on funds, with less than $800 million before Irene struck last weekend.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been especially vocal about the issue, saying that any partisan bickering needs to be put aside for his, and other, states.

"We need the support now here in New Jersey, and that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue," Christie told The Wall Street Journal.

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