Vice President Mike Pence refuses to say whether President Donald Trump will withdraw his threat of a government shutdown ― a move that could slash federal aid to tens of thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Pence told ABC News’s Jonathan Karl on Thursday that the administration’s “top priority” is dealing with Harvey’s aftermath, but noted that Trump remains hellbent on building his border wall, which the president has warned Congress to approve funding for or risk a government shutdown this month.
When pressed whether threatening to block government funding legislation is a responsible move in the wake of the devastating storm, Pence stood by his boss.
“President Trump has made it very clear that we’re going to keep our promise to the American people,” Pence said about the wall’s construction. “We’ve seen great progress in reducing illegal immigration on our southern border and enforcing our laws.”
“The president has made it clear that we’re going to stand firm and we’re going to build a wall and secure our border,” he continued. “But the priority right now for President Trump and this administration is these families.”
Over 100,000 people have registered for federal disaster assistance in the days since Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 27 trillion gallons of water on parts of Texas and Louisiana, destroying thousands of homes along the way.
If the government were to shut down, several disaster relief programs would be at risk, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program and the Disaster Relief Fund.
According to FEMA’s most recent report, issued in early August, the fund would have between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion at the end of September, which likely won’t be nearly enough to support those affected by Harvey.
Justine Whelan, a spokeswoman for FEMA, told HuffPost on Tuesday that FEMA would do everything they can to support Harvey-affected communities, no matter what happens to government funding.
“In the event of a government shutdown, FEMA will continue to support survivors and communities affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Whelan said. “FEMA makes payments for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance, until funds are no longer available in the Disaster Relief Fund.”