Leaders in the Congress meet with the White House to resolve complicated issues facing Congress next week from a spending plan to an increase in the debt limit. Also on the agenda: Tax reform and government services for victims of Hurricane Harvey. (Speaker.Gov photo)
Congress returns to Washington next week and it must increase the debt limit and appropriate money so that the federal government can operate. And on top of that — billions of dollars will be required to help people recover from storms in Texas.
This is Trahant Reports.
Hurricane Harvey has flooded one of America’s largest cities and the cost of this disaster is going to be extraordinary. One insurance company is already projecting at least $40 billion worth of damages.
Congress will likely act fast.
And perhaps there will be a moment of unity that brings Congress together on two other issues, raising the federal debt limit. (Basically agreeing to pay the country’s bills.) And, finishing the work of appropriations.
A spending plan for federal agencies must be approved and signed into law by Sept. 30. House Speaker Paul Ryan said it’s likely that Congress will need more time — so a temporary spending bill, called a Continuing Resolution, will keep the government funded through the rest of this year.
But will President Donald J. Trump sign such a measure? In Phoenix he said a government shutdown might be necessary to convince Congress to build a border wall. Will the Trump administration demand its border funding in the Continuing Resolution? That would force a government shutdown sooner, rather than later.
Indian Country is always hit hard by government shutdowns.
As I wrote last time around: “What will a closed federal government look like? History gives us a clue. There was a 21-day shutdown that started on December 16, 1995, and continued to January 6, 1996. According to the Congressional Research Service, “All 13,500 Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees were furloughed; general assistance payments for basic needs to 53,000 BIA benefit recipients were delayed; and estimated 25,000 American Indians did not receive timely payment of oil and gas royalties.
“And at the Indian Health Service, former IHS director Dr. Michael Trujillo, told Congress that the government closure “caused considerable hardship within Indian communities. One result of staff furloughs was difficulty in processing funds … Those staff that continued providing health services were not paid on time. Threats to shut off utilities to our health facilities and even to stop food deliveries were endured. We reached a point where some private sector providers indicated that they might not accept patients who were referred from Indian Health facilities because of the Federal shutdown.”
It’s time to develop a Plan B. Even a Plan C.
I am Mark Trahant.