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Joe Biden has asked Congress to fund more than $30bn in new spending on disaster aid and relief for Afghan refugees as the US president warned that the world was in “peril” from extreme weather events.
The request for additional federal money came on Tuesday in a blog post from Shalanda Young, the acting White House budget director. At the same time, Biden was touring areas of New York and New Jersey hit by deadly flooding last week.
“We’ve got to listen to the scientists and the economists and the national security experts. They all tell us this is code red; the nation and the world are in peril,” the US president said. “They’ve been warning us the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we’re living it in real time now.”
Biden has said the increase in damaging weather highlighted the importance of measures to combat climate change in a massive $3.5tn spending bill that he is trying to get through Congress in the coming weeks.
“It’s good-paying jobs: we can put the economy back on the path to real growth. But in the meantime, we’re going to save a whole hell of a lot of people’s lives, and we’re going to save a whole hell of a lot of money,” Biden said.
More immediately, the White House said it would need more money to tackle the impact of the hurricanes, floods and wildfires that hit the US over the past 18 months. About $10bn would be required to pay for the government’s response to Hurricane Ida, which inflicted heavy damage from Louisiana to New York between late August and early September, while $14bn would be needed for earlier extreme weather events, Young said.
In addition to the disaster relief, the White House added that it would also need $6.4bn in funding to aid Afghan refugees.
“The operation to move out of danger and to safety tens of thousands of Afghans at risk, including many who helped us during our two decades in Afghanistan, represents an extraordinary military, diplomatic, security and humanitarian operation by the US government,” Young wrote.
The request for additional funding comes as the White House and Congress are nearing a September 30 deadline to pass legislation to fund government operations, or face a damaging shutdown.
Young asked lawmakers to pass a stop-gap measure known as a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded at current levels while lawmakers take more time to negotiate a permanent deal on the annual budget.
The demands from the White House will further complicate the congressional agenda this month, as Democratic leaders who control both chambers of Congress try to pass Biden’s multitrillion-dollar economic agenda.
In a series of very heated negotiations, mainly within the Democratic party, lawmakers will attempt to find compromises allowing both Biden’s $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure plan and White House-backed legislation worth $3.5tn to expand the social safety net, which includes provisions to combat climate change.
Resisting the additional spending could be hard for Republicans, given the human suffering and economic toll inflicted by the extreme weather, and widespread support for helping Afghan refugees among the US public.
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