Baltimore bridge collapse: House Freedom Caucus demands limits on federal rebuild funding

The House Freedom Caucus is demanding that any federal funds allocated to rebuild Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge be offset by cuts elsewhere and that those dollars be narrowly aimed at just structural repairs.The ultra-conservative Republican group is staking out an official position as federal officials work with the Maryland government to assess the damage done by both the destroyed bridge and the impact on activity at the Port of Baltimore.Before greenlighting funds for the restoration, however, the Freedom Caucus signaled for House GOP leaders to force the Biden administration to roll back its pause on new export permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG).BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE: MAN WHO CROSSED MOMENTS BEFORE DISASTER SAYS ‘I’M REALLY LUCKY'”Before Congress considers any emergency supplemental funding for the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, it’s important that (1) we first seek maximum liability from the foreign shipping companies upfront and (2) the Port of Baltimore draws upon already available federal funds,” the group said.”If it proves necessary to appropriate taxpayer money to get one of America’s busiest ports back online, Congress should ensure it is fully offset and that burdensome regulations…are waived to avoid all unnecessary delays and costs.”The latter point was first raised last week by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., a member of the Freedom Caucus who represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore.CARGO SHIP IN BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE INVOLVED IN 2016 ACCIDENT”Furthermore, this funding must be limited to physical structure repairs with a federal nexus – this must not become a pork-filled bill loaded with unrelated projects and the House of Representatives must adhere to the ‘single subject’ rule,” the Freedom Caucus statement said.”Finally, the Biden Administration’s pause on approvals of liquified natural gas export terminals – which, like the Baltimore harbor closure, has severe implications for foreign trade – must be lifted before Congress considers appropriating any funding for the bridge reconstruction.”It’s not clear how much impact the group’s opposition will have – while it’s in early stages, a funding package is expected to get wide bipartisan support in the House and Senate, particularly if it’s just targeted toward the bridge and its operations.The bridge collapsed last week after a Singapore-linked container ship lost power and rammed into the structure, killing six construction workers.House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is also the subcommittee chairman for transportation on the House Appropriations Committee, told Fox News Digital days after that a funding package would likely come together in a “matter of weeks.” BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE: SECOND TEMPORARY CHANNEL OPENED, ROUGH WEATHER SLOWS DEBRIS REMOVALCole, whose subcommittee is central to advancing any funding package for the bridge, also anticipate that those funds would need to target more than just reconstruction.”This could be a little more complex than normal. There’s obviously the bridge itself, but there’s also… potential damages relating to the interruption of traffic at the port,” Cole told Fox News Digital. “There’s going to be a disruption of traffic, you may have people put out of work, and then the port itself, because it’s likely to not be fully operational for several weeks.”House Republicans who spoke with Fox News Digital last week, however, were divided over President Biden’s pledge that the federal government would foot the bill for the entire reconstruction. Reports have estimated that the cost could be as much as $2 billion.Fox News Digital reached out to Speaker Johnson’s office for comment.
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