Shortly after Hurricane Irene blows through Washington, Congress will blow back into town and start fighting about how to pay for the storm and all the other disasters that have struck the U.S. this year.
If the hurricane is truly historic, as President Obama has warned, an emergency disaster appropriations bill would be necessary in September to get the government through to the beginning of fiscal 2012 on Oct. 1, aides said.
The problem with this is that Democrats and Republicans disagree on whether emergency appropriations need to be offset by other cuts to spending.
Even if the government can make it to Oct. 1 without a special disaster bill, the offset fight could linger as vastly different House and Senate 2012 Homeland Security spending bills are hashed out.
If Irene and other disasters are not offset in the 2012 bill, the cost would end up wiping out the amount of budget savings the GOP was able to get in the debt ceiling deal. This is because of a little-known provision in the debt ceiling deal that allows new spending caps to be raised.