House passes $7.9B Harvey disaster aid package

07 September, 2017, 01:34 | Author: Julian Swanson
  • The Capitol is seen during a heavy rain in Washington in July

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a $7.85 billion relief package to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The relief was approved as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief accounts dipped below $1 billion as the Harvey recovery begins and Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, barrels toward the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress won't leave town for the weekend without getting a Harvey aid bill done.

Conservatives, in particular, expressed frustration with any plan pairing the two issues before leadership had a chance to explain it. Conservatives had hoped to keep the two measures separate as a way to prevent a debt-limit increase that didn't include spending reforms, though Republicans have little leverage to push for reforms because raising the debt limit will require Democratic votes.

Politics quickly intruded as Democratic leaders insisted they would back the measure in the Senate only if it were linked to a short-term increase in the nation's borrowing limit, not the longer-term hike that Republicans and the Trump administration want.

Republican leaders for now are bowing to the demands of their most conservative members and won't combine legislation raising the US debt ceiling with Harvey aid, a House Republican aide said Monday.

"We had a very good meeting", Trump said of his conversation earlier in the day with top Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House.

These numbers, which combined amount to about $15 billion, are just for immediate spending needs after Harvey.

Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, said he would be "open" to a bill that attaches a debt ceiling increase to Harvey aid.

But in 2010, as a member of the House minority, Ryan vocally opposed an increase in the debt ceiling without concessions. It's not immediately clear when the Senate will take up the bill, but it is expected to sometime this week.

While some GOP leaders want a longer-term increase, any votes to increase federal borrowing are always hard for members of Congress, particularly fiscal conservatives principally opposed to increasing debt and spending. It is critical. And to do that, we need to make sure we raise the debt limit.

"I know that securing this emergency funding is very important for the president", McConnell said. The White House has asked for almost $8 billion in emergency aid, which the House is expected to vote on this week. "The leader has made the decision to add the debt limit to that, and I support that".

"I think that's a mistake", he said.

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