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FEMA chief questions agency’s role, urges more local response

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The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday said the wave of recent U.S. disasters, from multiple storms to raging wildfires, must redefine the agency’s role and that localities must be more prepared to shoulder crises.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long told Congress members the scale of assisting victims and rebuilding damaged areas has tested the agency, busted budgets and strained resources, and that more of the nation’s emergency response must fall on its citizenry.

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“It is time to question what is FEMA’s role in disaster response and recovery,” Long said before the U.S House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee. “FEMA … (was) never designed to be the first responder and the only responder in a disaster, but in many cases that’s where we find ourselves.”

The hearing came as the Trump administration is seeking another infusion of funds to shore up FEMA’s efforts after several hurricanes this year wrecked parts of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and wildfires devastated swaths of California.

FEMA is making its third supplemental request seeking $44 billion in additional funds from Congress as it struggles to provide aid after Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, which flooded Houston and left most of Puerto Rico without power.

In October, Congress approved $36.5 billion in emergency relief after approving another $15.25 billion in September.

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Long said he would make a fourth request if needed, but that for now FEMA should be able to absorb the costs.

Congress must juggle FEMA’s latest request with larger budget issues as it seeks to fund the overall federal government before funding runs out next month.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking at his weekly news conference, said the next disaster aid package would not be ready for House passage as part of a stopgap federal funding bill Congress is hoping to complete before Dec. 8.

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Republican Representative John Carter, who chaired the panel hearing, told Long, “We will get it done.”

Emergency funding is particularly critical for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where the island of 3.4 million Americans is in bankruptcy amid $72 billion in debt. Private- sector estimates of total damage from Maria have ranged as high as $95 billion.

Earlier in November, the Trump administration agreed to expand the use of disaster aid to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.

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On Thursday, Long said the scale of the disaster raised questions about FEMA’s responsibilities when areas like Puerto Rico already suffered from weak infrastructure, damaged roads and vulnerable housing.

“I don’t think you can put it back to a pre-disaster condition,” he said.

Long argued that FEMA’s expertise is not in areas such as housing or ensuring the long-term viability of a community.

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Instead, he said, more states and cities need healthy cash reserves and need to be prepared to push out emergency food and water. Local citizens also need first-aid and other skills, he added.

“It’s time to hit the reset button on how we become resilient. … Citizens are the true first responders.”

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Katanga Johnson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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Trump has figured out how to get taxpayers to renovate one of his golf courses: MSNBC panel

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President Donald Trump has figured out how to have taxpayers pay to renovate his Trump National Doral Miami golf course, according to an analysis by MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle.

"Before setting himself on fire on Ukraine yesterday, Mick Mulvaney came into the White House briefing room to break to the nation the fact the that the Trump Doral golf resort turns out to be -- in his estimation, organically, just sitting there -- the best possible place to have a G-7 Summit of world leaders," MSNBC's Brian Williams reported. "That was provision number one. There’s no better place that we can find. Number two was, the president will not profit from said G-7."

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Bill Maher reveals plan to ‘bribe’ Trump with one billion dollars — for him to leave office

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The Constitution has two mechanisms to remove President Donald Trump from office prior to his term ending on January 20, 2021: impeachment and the 25th Amendment.

HBO "Real Time" host Bill Maher noted that Trump could also choose to resign.

Maher waved around a $1 million check that he said he would give to Trump to quit.

He said he also knew 1,000 people who would do the same -- which would land Trump over $1 billion.

Maher said even poor people would pawn their wedding rings to add to the pot.

Watch:

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Trump can’t fire Mulvaney because nobody else wants to be his chief of staff: report

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White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will likely stay on at the White House despite his public confession of a quid pro quo in the Ukraine scandal at the center of the impeachment inquiry, The New York Times reported Friday.

"But Mr. Mulvaney’s job has been anything but normal since the news conference on Thursday at which he seemingly undermined the Trump administration’s strategy for avoiding impeachment by acknowledging that Mr. Trump had sought a quid pro quo for providing Ukraine with American aid," the newspaper reported. "In the chaotic aftermath, the president’s Republican allies are questioning Mr. Mulvaney’s savvy and intelligence even as the Trump campaign is defiantly turning one of his lines from the news conference into a T-shirt."

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