White House wants Congress to boost disaster aid, cut spending elsewhere

Mick Mulvaney attends the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House plans to ask the U.S. Congress for a third round of disaster aid in mid-November as the costs continue to pour in for helping rebuild after hurricanes, but Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has told lawmakers he wants to see spending cuts elsewhere.

Mulvaney said the federal government is assessing how much it will cost to help Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused massive damages in August and September.

Mulvaney expects the damages to add up to “several tens of billions of dollars,” he said in a letter to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell dated Tuesday.

“As we move toward the longer-term issue of rebuilding the impacted areas of our nation, we believe that it is appropriate that the Congress consider reducing spending elsewhere in order to offset what will, again, be a significant amount of unbudgeted spending,” Mulvaney said in the letter.

President Donald Trump is slated to receive a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts later on Wednesday in Dallas, where he is attending fundraising events.

The Office of Management and Budget has drawn up a preliminary list of more than $5.5 billion in unspent funds that could be cut, Mulvaney said in a separate letter to lawmakers on Senate and House appropriations committees.

The list includes $4.3 billion from an Energy Department loan program for advanced technology vehicle manufacturing and almost $730 million in funds no longer needed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects related to Hurricane Sandy recovery, Mulvaney said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy