Emergency summit on Baltimore bridge collapse set as tensions rise over federal funding

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Maryland’s congressional delegation will meet with Gov. Wes Moore and the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Tuesday to discuss emergency funding for Baltimore and its response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, multiple sources familiar with the planning told CBS News.

The meeting will be held Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol and comes amid some internal disagreement among Maryland congressional leaders over the size and scope of what Congress should be asked to fund immediately, CBS News has learned.   

The U.S. Transportation Department approved an initial $60 million in emergency funds last month in the immediate aftermath of the bridge’s toppling by the Dali, a freighter operated by a Singapore-based owner. But the scope of the work needed to clear the massive bridge from the Patapsco River, reopen shipping channels, assist idled port workers and draw up initial infrastructure plans to rebuild the bridge is as enormous as it is murky.

Maryland’s congressional representatives acknowledge it’s unclear how much money is needed from Washington in the short term.

“The total number could be very well north of a billion dollars,” said Rep. David Trone, a Maryland Democrat who has a seat on the pivotal House Appropriations Committee. “But nobody can give you a super close guess (about) what that (total cost) is going to be right now. There are a lot of design questions and unknown costs for salvage. But we need to get a big number out there and get it approved.”

Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said initial emergency funding should be limited to urgent and time-sensitive projects.  

“I’m wary of going ahead and appropriating the money all at once,” Harris told CBS News. “We should pass something to make sure we have enough money to clear the channel.”

Harris said Congress’ initial emergency aid package should include language requiring the Justice Department to undertake civil actions and “recoup the money” from companies found liable for any failures that led to the bridge crash and collapse.

“It’ll probably cost less than $100 million to clear the channel.  That’s the only large expense there is going to be in the next few months,” Harris said. “Obviously, the expense of building the bridge is years into the future.”

But Maryland Democrats told CBS News they’ll also seek funding to help provide aid for workers who face hardships because of the crisis. And they worry that Republicans might deny Baltimore funding in the future.

Trone told CBS News he’ll try to include language in an emergency funding bill that ensures work and restoration is funded continuously over the next several years, even if Donald Trump wins the White House in November.   

“We need some commitment by the federal government, in the appropriations bill, that we’re going to be there for the full cost of rebuilding this bridge,” said Trone. “We don’t say it’s a ‘red state’ or a ‘blue state.’ It’s an American state. We’ve had a natural calamity.” 

“We shouldn’t be playing politics with this,” Trone said. “We’ve got to get that down in writing in the appropriations bill, just in case the most horrible thing ever happened — President Biden is not reelected.”

A spokesman for Gov. Moore told CBS News that Moore would work with the congressional delegation “to make sure Maryland gets the resources it needs to rebuild the Key Bridge, reopen the Port of Maryland, and support the families impacted.”

Four of Maryland’s congressional representatives have seats on appropriations committees, which would have some role in shaping and drafting legislation to fund restoration efforts. 

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced he would meet this week with longshoremen impacted by the collapse.

He posted on social media this week, “Clearing debris is vital for reopening the Port of Baltimore—a huge economic hub for MD & the country. I’m thankful for the Army Corps of Engineers & MDOT’s round-the-clock work to clear & open an initial portion of the channel ASAP.”

Sen. Ben Cardin appeared with federal small business officials and Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott on Thursday in Baltimore to discuss efforts to assist workers.

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