Politics

White House to ask Congress for extra money for Hurricane Harvey relief

President Donald Trump's Homeland Security Advisor, Tom Bossert, said Thursday there are "about 100,000 affected homes" in areas hit by Hurricane Harvey, as he announced plans to soon make the first of two planned supplemental funding requests to Congress to provide money for relief efforts on the Gulf Coast.

But Bossert also said, "I'm not concerned at all that we don't have the money for the operations underway right now" in Houston and elsewhere.

And he said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be "well-funded" under Trump's proposed budget.

Bossert praised the ongoing rescue and relief efforts, saying, "I'm seeing nothing but positive, I'm seeing nothing but appropriate coordination" between federal, state and local authorities.

At the same press conference where Bossert spoke, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly declined to confirm reports that Trump as early as Friday will announce plans to terminate the Obama-era DACA program, which now allows many young illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.

Reports also indicated that Trump will allow immigrants currently in the program to stay in the U.S. until their current work permits expire.

"Final decisions have not been made," Sanders said.

Sanders also said that Trump still supported Gary Cohn, the director of the White House Economic Council, who reportedly had drafted a resignation letter after Trump blamed "both sides" for the racially fueled violence in Charleston, Virginia, that ended in the killing of a woman protesting neo-Nazis and other racists.

"Gary is an integral member of the team," Sanders said.

Bossert did not say how much money the Trump administration planned on asking Congress for in supplemental funding to help the areas affected by Harvey.

Asked if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was wrong in estimating that the federal recovery effort for Harvey could cost $100 billion, Bossert said, "There's nobody wrong on estimates right now."

"I don't have any reason to challenge anybody's estimates right now," he said, suggesting that it is too early to put a price tag on the cost of the storm.

"We are still in response mode, that so that means life-saving, life-sustaining" operations, Bossert said.

"We're soon going to move over to the long, frustrating recovery process ... to get you back into your homes, your jobs and get your kids back into schools."

The leaders of both Mexico and Canada have reached out to Trump to express condolences about the disaster, and to offer their assistance to the relief effort, according to Bossert.

The Homeland Security advisor said that while those leaders did not discuss details with Trump about such aid to the United States, "there's no reason not to take that assistance."

Bossert also said, "I'm not aware of any major damage" to oil refineries in the storm-affected areas.

"While there might be some effect on our fuel [prices] as a nation, right now we're hoping it's not a large" or sustained effect, he said.

Bossert said illegal immigrants in the region hit by the storm should not be worried about accepting offers of shelter and aid from official sources, as there are not plans by authorities to ask questions about their immigration status at shelters.

"We won't start rounding people up," he said.

But Bossert said that he does not expect illegal immigrants to get long-term disaster relief funds or benefits under programs that are currently restricted to legal residents.

"That doesn't mean we're going to let somebody die of thirst or hunger or exposure," he said.

Bossert, when asked about reports of price-gouging for essential supplies in the storm-affected areas, warned that Attorney General "Jeff Sessions and the president of the United States will not tolerate gouging."

He said cases of gouging will be hit "like a hammer."

The Department of Defense on Thursday detailed the assets the Texas National Guard now has on the ground in Harvey relief.

They include 30 Blackhawk helicopters, four Chinook choppers and 16 boats, as well as more than 270 Humvees and another 244 high-water vehicles.

The Pentagon itself has sent 73 helicopters, three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and eight pararescue teams to the region.

It also has sent more than 100 high-water vehicles to east Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard has 42 helicopters now in Harvey relief plus seven fixed-wing aircraft and more than 60 water-rescue boats.

Seven C-17 large transport planes are being dispatched from Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina and two C-5 Galaxy airliners are coming from El Paso.

The Navy dispatched the USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill, two amphibious ships that are transporting members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who are expected to arrive off Texas next week.

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