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White House: Irene’s federal cost $1.5 billion

By The Associated Press

This article was published September 5, 2011 at 2:49 p.m.

— The White House is estimating that Hurricane Irene will cost the federal government $1.5 billion in disaster relief.

White House budget chief Jacob Lew released that preliminary estimate Monday. He said the $1.5 billion was on top of $5.2 billion needed for other recent disasters, including tornadoes that leveled much of Joplin, Mo.

The spending may touch off yet another partisan fight between President Barack Obama and Congress.

The Obama administration has said last month’s debt ceiling deal with Congress allows the money to be spent by adding to federal deficits — a long-time practice for financing emergencies. The House’s No. 2 Republican, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, has said the disaster spending should be paid for by finding offsetting cuts from the rest of the budget.

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