GOP denies Obama’s request for wildfire cash

The House GOP’s bill proposed Tuesday to help officials deal with unaccompanied minors at the southern border does not include the funding President Obama requested for wildfires.

Obama earlier this month asked Congress for $615 million to deal with wildfires as part of his $3.7 billion emergency spending request. The money would go to the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service, which coordinates firefighting on federal land, to help with an unusually active wildfire season.

ADVERTISEMENT
The House Appropriations Committee responded Tuesday morning with a $659 million bill that granted none of the wildfire funds the president wanted.

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he is open to handling emergency wildfire funds separately from the border bill if the Senate passes a bill with those funds.

“Although on wildfires, the agencies have a big pile of money already,” Rogers said. “I don’t think there’s an urgency on the money part.”

Appropriations spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said the panel would re-evaluate its decision as needed in future legislation.

When Obama sent his request to Congress, Rogers said it was “apparent that additional funding to prevent and fight wildland fires — especially in the west where the damage has been so great — is necessary.”

The federal government estimated in May that it would cost $1.8 billion to fight wildfires this year, $470 million more than Congress gave the agencies. It blamed the increase chiefly on climate change, but also on increased development in the western states where fires are the most destructive.

— Peter Schroeder contributed to this story.