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Roskam: Disaster Relief Funds Might Become Big Budget Battle

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CHICAGO (WBBM) – Disaster relief aid for those impacted by Hurricane Irene and other spring and summer storms may be the next big budget battle in Congress.

A clause in the debt ceiling compromise specifically exempts FEMA disaster aid and authorizes Congress to approve several billion dollars in additional aid without corresponding cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Despite that, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and other top House Republicans say they will find additional cuts and will insist on agreement.

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“We’re out of money, all of us,” said Roskam, who is deputy House majority whip. “If we’re going to do things like thoughtfully caring for people who have been impacted by a disaster, we need to recognize that there’s a cost to that.”

Roskam said federal borrowing remains out of control.

“It’s nothing that anyone would choose to do. It’s always easier to write a check to sort of make a problem go away and not ever have to make it reconcile,” Roskam said. “But those days are gone. The S&P (Standard & Poor’s) has driven this conversation with the downgrade (on the U.S. government bond rating to AA+).”

FEMA officials have said that they have less than $800 million in the agency budget for disaster relief, and could need $5 billion or more in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

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