Bloomberg Business News, relying on anonymous staffers in the US Senate and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reports that FEMA is burning cash at a rate of $9.3 million an hour, and will be broke in about 48 hours (as of Wednesday, September 6). This spending is in response to Hurricane Harvey’s assault on southern Texas, the costs of which are just starting to come in. Just about 72 hours from now Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes in history, will slam into Miami.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, FEMA had only $2.14 billion on hand last Thursday morning, and by Tuesday morning had spent over half of it. Of the billion dollars left, only half of it was available to spend. Presumably, if this liquidity problem cannot be solved within hours, FEMA will be out of money even sooner than Friday.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today, Wednesday, on an emergency appropriation of $8 billion for FEMA (keep in mind that predicted costs of recovery are in the neighborhood of $120 billion, so this would be a band aid to stop the bleeding until the doctor gets here). If the esteemed legislators can actually bestir themselves sufficiently to do this, and it is far from safe to assume that they can, then whatever they pass, festooned with whatever tinsel and ornaments they put on it, will be sent (presumably by snail mail) to the Senate.
There, plans are afoot to create a Siamese Twin Frankenstein’s Bill — one that would both fund FEMA and raise the national debt limit. This latter thing — a sort of “stop me before I borrow again” appeal from the Congress to itself, a substitute for decision making — could tie the Congress in knots for weeks of “debate.” But if it is not raised, immediately, the government will not be able to borrow the money its needs for FEMA. That’s right. It has to borrow the money it needs for FEMA.
Whatever the Senate decides to do, as it will almost certainly be different from what the House did, and must then go back to the House for reconciliation. If the House agrees with the Senate in every particular — and only then — the legislation can go the the President for signature. By that time Mar-A-Lago may be gone and he may be too distraught to sign anything.
Meanwhile FEMA already — today — has restricted spending in Texas to what it calls “lifesaving, life-sustaining response efforts” as it awaits the arrival of pony express riders from Washington with saddlebags of cash — and the arrival of Irma in Miami.