What to Know in Washington: Hawaii Fires Raise Funding Requests

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President Joe Biden’s $12 billion request for disaster aid is expected to grow, as lawmakers push for additional money to rebuild after Hawaii’s destructive wildfires.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and key lawmakers have said more funding could be needed to respond to the damage in Hawaii. Biden last week had already asked Congress for $12 billion in additional funds for FEMA as part of a $40 billion package including aid to Ukraine.

The growing disaster aid costs may complicate an already difficult series of spending negotiations when lawmakers return to Washington in September, facing an end-of-month deadline to avert a government shutdown. Any delay in talks could also slow the delivery of funds to disaster victims.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A view of a home in Lahaina, Hawaii, destroyed by wildfires that have killed more than 100 people.

“We are going to need a bipartisan emergency supplemental appropriations bill that includes significant funding for Hawaii,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement. “I’m working with state and local officials, the Biden administration, and my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to make sure Hawaii gets all the federal resources it needs.”

FEMA has enough money to respond to immediate needs, but it may ultimately need more than the $12 billion Biden requested, Criswell told reporters Wednesday.

Read more: Biden Sends Identification Experts to Wildfire-Stricken Maui

Biden faces a tricky path to getting disaster funding from Congress. GOP members are also broadly opposed to emergency funding that is exempt from the spending limits set under the debt limit agreement enacted in June.

Senators return from August recess Sept. 5 and House members return Sept. 12. The short runway to a spending deal may lead lawmakers to tie a supplemental spending request to a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down. Read the full story from Jack Fitzpatrick and Kellie Lunney.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Maui on Monday to see firsthand the devastation and meet with state and local leaders to discuss steps to aid in the recovery effort, following criticism of the White House response to the disaster, Akayla Gardner reports.


  • Shortly before 1 p.m., Biden travels to St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania to privately pay respects to former Pennsylvania First Lady Ellen Casey in advance of a viewing.
  • The president then heads to Camp David, arriving shortly after 3 p.m.

News From the White House

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Coming Up on the Hill

Schumer Endorses Bill to Avoid Shutdown Into December

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he supports passing a stopgap spending bill in late September that lasts until early December, paving the way for a potential bipartisan agreement to avoid a government shutdown after Sept. 30.

  • Schumer says he met with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a few weeks ago, and they agreed Congress should do a short-term measure as negotiations on government funding continue. Read more.

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Calpers Attacked by House GOP for Acting Like Climate ‘Cartel’

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What Else We’re Reading

Federal Funds Flow for Fish Passage

The Transportation Department rolled out almost $200 million Wednesday to aid the flow of fish in rivers across the country. The new spending will go toward repairing or removing 169 culvert barriers, which for years have blocked fish in waterways passing under roads and railways, Lillianna Byington reports.

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— With assistance from Lillianna Byington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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