As part of the request, White House Office of Management and Budget acting director Shalanda Young called for Congress to approve a short-term extension in government funding so that there isn’t a partial government shutdown Oct. 1.
Government funding is set to lapse at the end of September under current law, which means that lawmakers would need to authorize a temporary “continuing resolution” to extend funding at their current levels for a set period.
“We are also calling on Congress to include additional funding in a CR to help address two other urgent needs: responding to recent and ongoing natural disasters, and meeting our commitments to our Afghan allies and partners,” Young said in a letter.
The White House’s request for short-term funding needs comes as it works on unrelated legislation for an approximately $3.5 trillion budget deal that Democrats are seeking to shape this month in Congress. That sweeping package would overhaul the social safety net, authorize new climate change programs, raise taxes on corporations and achieve a number of other Biden administration priorities.
An unrelated third measure, a $1 trillion infrastructure package supported by Democrats and Republicans, passed the Senate in August but has not been approved by the House of Representatives or signed into law.
Piling onto these spending fights, the administration’s request for more funding for the Afghanistan relocation and disaster relief programs is likely to provoke substantial debate in Congress, where Republicans have hammered the White House for its handling of the withdrawal to end the war.
But pairing that more controversial request with measures more likely to enjoy bipartisan support — such as disaster aid and keeping the government funded — could make it harder for Republican lawmakers to oppose. Congress is also facing an imminent deadline over the debt ceiling — the legal amount the U.S. government can borrow to pay its bills — and it is possible lawmakers will seek to combine the short-term spending needs into one package.
“I think anything to do with Afghanistan is going to be difficult. It probably falls into the category of an emergency — and something that was not anticipated — but it will create some consternation about the overall package,” said Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee. “I imagine both sides will want to consider Afghanistan funding as part of a much broader review. But if it’s truly an emergency, there may be willingness to provide some of this.”
The funding request for Afghanistan reflects the massive effort undertaken by the administration in evacuating tends of thousands of American partners in the region and resettling them in the United States. Of that $6.4 billion request, the biggest chunk — $2.4 billion — is for Defense Department bases involved in the relocation process for allies from Afghanistan, as well as military personnel involved in those efforts.
An additional $1.3 billion would go to the State Department for supporting the resettlement operations, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in “humanitarian assistance” for Afghans in the country and abroad. Another $193 million would help U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services process the new arrivals and give them legal residency in the United States.
Administration officials said Tuesday the request would help plans for resettling as many as 65,000 Afghans who are expected to arrive in the United States by the end of September, as well as up to 30,000 Afghans expected to arrive in the country over the next 12 months.
“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 U.S. government,” Young’s letter said.
“We urge Congress to appropriate $6.4 billion to enable the success of this multifaceted, historic mission,” she wrote.
The disaster aid — probably more than $20 billion when the damage from Hurricane Ida is factored in — would help the administration respond to Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta, as well as droughts, wildfires and flooding in other parts of the country. The funding would go for transit emergency relief, small-business disaster loans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency relief fund and other federal programs.
Under the White House’s spending request, the majority of the disaster relief funding — roughly $9 billion — would be used to reimburse farmers through a program run out of the Agriculture Department. Another $2 billion would be devoted to a grant program for localities struck by natural disasters, while another $2.6 billion would go to highway emergency relief.
Administration officials said on a call with reporters that climate change is creating more-severe storms and disasters that are affecting a growing number of Americans. They said that nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in counties affected by a weather-related disaster in the last three months.
“It’s clear the cost of inaction on climate change are mounting every year,” said Leah Stokes, a climate expert and associate professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Acting on the crisis is much cheaper than continuing to ignore or delay.”