Week ahead: Lawmakers to consider Harvey aid

Week ahead: Lawmakers to consider Harvey aid
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Lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday with a host of pressing issues on their plate, chief among them agreeing to an aid package for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

Harvey swept through Texas and Louisiana last week, dropping record rainfall and causing flooding severe enough to likely make it one of the costliest natural disasters in American history, if not the costliest.

There are no formal cost estimates for recovery efforts yet. But lawmakers expect Congress to turn its attention to an aid package right away. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said last week that he expects the federal government to immediately dole out $80 million, with more to come later.

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AccuWeather last week predicted it would cost $190 million to help fully recover from the storm, and President Trump said he expects the storm to be the most expensive in U.S. history.

Though Congress will begin deliberations on an aid package next week -- and could pass an initial recovery bill relatively quickly -- it's likely to take weeks or even months to finalize a broader deal addressing the whole disaster. It took nearly three months for lawmakers to craft, debate and pass a $50.7 billion assistance bill for Superstorm Sandy following that October 2012 storm.

The House is planning to kick off its post-recess legislative work with floor debate and consideration of a major appropriations bill.

The spending package includes appropriations for the government programs and agencies that were not part of the House's security-focused spending bill passed before recess, including the bill for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department.

That bill, passed in July by the House Appropriations Committee, would cost $31.4 billion, cutting many major programs in both agencies but not to the degree that President Trump pushed for in his budget proposal earlier this year.

The House Rules Committee will start consideration of the bill and proposed amendments Tuesday, which would allow for floor debate as soon as Wednesday.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for four Trump nominees on Thursday.

The committee will hear from two Trump nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, Trump's nominee to chair the commission. Joseph Balash, the nominee to be assistant Interior Secretary for Land and Mineral Management, and Ryan Nelson, the Interior Solicitor nominee, are also scheduled to testify.

Elsewhere, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on three onshore energy bills, and the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a pair of hearings on public utility regulations and EPA oversight.

Meanwhile, observers are watching to see if the Trump administration reveals Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE's recommendations for changing national monuments, or whether Trump takes action to implement any of them.

Zinke said late last month that he had sent the recommendations to the White House, but the administration declined to reveal the details, saying Zinke's review was just a draft. Conservationists and other foes of the monuments review were incensed that Zinke's report was not released publicly.

Zinke said at the time that he wants a "handful" of monuments to be reduced in size, but he doesn't believe any should be eliminated.

 

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