A House committee voted Tuesday to provide an additional $1 billion to help federal emergency crews respond to the devastation from natural disasters across the South and Midwest.
The House Appropriations Committee, which is working to craft the 2012 budget for the Department of Homeland Security, approved by voice vote an amendment to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the extra money. The funding is meant to cover disaster response for 2011 in Alabama and Missouri, both of which were struck by tornadoes, and Louisiana, which was swamped by extensive flooding.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and sponsor of the amendment, told Fox News the government has to "step up to the plate" to respond to disasters.
He said the government could not just "throw money" at the problem, but expressed concern about whether FEMA had sufficient funds for the rest of the year, especially since hurricane season doesn't officially begin until June 1.
"It's going to be close," Aderholt said.
The tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., over the weekend killed at least 116 people, and was described as the most devastating tornado since 1953. A series of tornadoes that struck the South last month killed more than 300 people. Additionally, massive floods have upended lives across the region.
To pay for the FEMA infusion, Aderholt said he wants to pull from a $4 billion Department of Energy loan program to facilitate green technology for automobiles. Supporters of the plan to take from that fund say that even if every single applicant qualified and got the maximum loan, $2 billion would remain in that account.
Lawmakers may still want to see a supplemental budget request from the president to cover additional emergency costs. However, the Obama administration so far has said there are no plans to submit such a request.
President Obama requested $6.79 billion for FEMA in 2012, down slightly from the 2010 budget, which was $7.1 billion.
As for the deal Congress and Obama signed off on last month to keep government open and cut $61 billion from the budget, lawmakers say $1 billion in emergency spending would technically not reduce that deal.
Though real dollars would be spent, for scorekeeping purposes, it is not counted in a conventional way because "emergency" money for the war or other additional spending is also "off budget."
Rep. Robert Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, added that Congress could use some unused emergency money from other fiscal years to help cover the cost.
He offered his own amendment that would restore cuts to FEMA's state and local programs as well as Firefighter Assistance Grants. The current bill for 2012 cuts that money by 55 percent below what is law now. It's 70 percent below fiscal year 2010.
The grants fund training and assistance programs, including state Homeland Security and Urban Area funding and Transit and Port Security.
If the bill is adopted as currently written, Price says transit agencies will not have funding to hire additional law enforcement officers, acquire bomb sniffing dogs or install explosive screening devices.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.