Funding bill to replace Baltimore Key Bridge could take shape in ‘matter of weeks’: Top House Republican

A senior House Republican is predicting that a funding package to help with the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore would begin to take shape “in a matter of weeks.”House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., who also leads the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on transportation, spoke with Fox News Digital days after a barge struck the bridge, destroying the structure and forcing the Port of Baltimore to temporarily shut down. Six construction workers who were on the bridge at the time are since presumed dead.Cole said there are ongoing discussions about what role Congress has to play, and that a funding package could be “well beyond just the construction of the bridge.””We have to wait for a damage estimate. And 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 explained. “Certainly, we stand ready to work very closely with both federal and state officials.”LIVE UPDATES: BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE Any funding package for the bridge would likely have to go through Cole’s subcommittee — the House Appropriations Committee controls the purse strings of Congress.Asked about when Congress could start working on a package in earnest, Cole said, “Sometimes it takes a while, and you want to be very sure that you really do include everything. So it would probably be a matter of weeks.””We’ve had a good exchange with the Department of Transportation. There are a number of things they are doing and can do right now. They have the ability to advance money for debris removal. They’ve got an emergency fund for meeting expenses. So there are resources there to do the things that need to be done,” Cole said.On the timing, he explained, “A lot of this depends on, you know, do you want to attach it to something else, or do you want it to stand alone?,” adding that figuring out the congressional committees of jurisdiction could also take some time.US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS SAYS IT’S ‘TOO EARLY’ TO KNOW BRIDGE DEBRIS CLEANUP TIMELINE “It’s a terrible tragedy. My heart breaks for people that have lost their lives in this. We’re certainly sensitive to the fact that this has real larger economic implications for the region and, frankly, for the national economy, as well. So we’re going to do the things we can to be helpful,” Cole said.Two House members from Maryland suggested to Fox News Digital that they’d prefer the package not be linked to other legislation.”Given the local, regional and national impact of this tragedy, our delegation will be pushing hard to ensure that the process for moving the funding legislation forward is expedited and straightforward,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., who represents part of Baltimore.Sarbanes pushed for swift congressional consideration, telling Fox News Digital, “We will be pressing for quick action to deliver these essential funds to the families and communities who are feeling the impact of this horrific incident.”Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said bluntly, “If you attach unrelated legislation, it’s going to kill this.”2 BODIES RECOVERED FOLLOWING BALTIMORE BRIDGE COLLAPSE Harris, however, warned against committing funding until the federal government and Maryland state government could consider waiving environmental and other regulatory restrictions to hasten reconstruction.”I think certainly we shouldn’t commit any funds until we’ve addressed the issue of whether or not we’re going to streamline the regulation process. This regulation process adds cost,” Harris said. “We should discuss, you know, whether we can waive some of the environmental requirements and regulations for studies, as well as some of the labor regulations that the administration has sought for major projects that increase the costs.”Cole anticipated it was “likely” a package would not include unrelated measures.”There’s not likely to be much entangled with this. It’s pretty straightforward. I’ve just wanted to leave the possibility out there simply because, with all due respect to my two colleagues, none of the three of us make that decision,” Cole said. “But again, I have no reason to believe that the folks that do… will not be sympathetic.”It’s not immediately clear how much the rebuilding would cost. The White House and the Department of Transportation did not return multiple requests for comment on the price tag, which Bloomberg and Roll Call have reported the figure to be at least $2 billion.Fox News Digital also reached out to Speaker Mike Johnson’s office for comment.
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