House Readies Harvey Aid as Senate GOP Mulls Adding Debt Limit

Marie Harrington
September 7, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved roughly $8 billion in initial emergency aid for relief and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, which tore into Texas on August 25.

The move on a $7.9 billion relief package would replenish a rapidly depleting disaster aid fund even as another storm, Hurricane Irma, churns out in the Atlantic.

Ryan also responded to a question about whether he could force a budget through without Democratic support, saying it would be impossible without Democratic cooperation.

Lawmakers from across the nation rallied behind the funding request, though some Democrats from NY and New Jersey chided Texas Republicans, including Cornyn and Cruz, who had opposed a final aid package for Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in 2005.

"Look, many of us got the calls from the administration and OMB, who said FEMA is moving so fast that we are running out of money as early as Friday to Tuesday".

"We've got all this devastation in Texas, a hurricane in Florida, and they want to play politics with the debt ceiling?"

Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday that if Congress appropriates the money, there must be enough available to cover the Harvey aid.

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With 419 lawmakers in favor and only three opposed, the bill was sent to the Senate in hopes that President Donald Trump will be able to sign it before Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds run out at the end of this week, AP reported.

"Given Republican difficulty in finding the votes for their plan, we believe this proposal offers a bipartisan path forward to ensure prompt delivery of Harvey aid as well as avoiding a default, while both sides work together to address government funding, Dreamers, and health care", House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a joint statement.

Leaders said they were especially confident that they initial bill would pass the House.

Mnuchin has warned lawmakers that the debt ceiling must be lifted to avoid a USA default on financial obligations.

"We will not leave until this is done", Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said this morning. Senate Republicans want to link Harvey aid to debt limit increase into 2019 after the midterm elections.

The House's two big, fiscally conservative groups - the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee - have already expressed reservations about a combo vote. This week, they'll present Ryan with options that could win more GOP votes, including a bill to prioritize debt payments over other government expenses should the debt limit be breached.

"This takes 60 votes in the Senate", Ryan said. He also said federal tax cuts or reforms are high on the list or priorities. That puts the onus back on House Republicans, many of whom oppose raising the debt limit.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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