February 24, 2018

Republicans Weigh Linking Harvey Funds, Debt Limit

07 September 2017, 02:01 | Kara Nash

The Capitol is seen during a heavy rain in Washington in July

The Capitol is seen during a heavy rain in Washington in July

WASHINGTON - Amid stories of misery, hope and heroics, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a $7.9 billion aid package for losses from Hurricane Harvey, a move that could be paired with legislation to increase the federal government's borrowing limit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said again Wednesday that increased Harvey costs show the importance of acting swiftly to increase the government's debt cap to make sure there's enough borrowed cash to pay out the surge in disaster aid.

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

The Trump Administration is asking for almost $8 billion to help with relief efforts.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, released a joint statement saying their proposal "offers a bipartisan path" toward Harvey relief and avoiding a default.

Republicans at the White House meeting had pressed to raise the debt ceiling for a longer period of time but Trump sided with Democrats, who said earlier on Wednesday they would back a three-month extension, an individual briefed on the meeting said.

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.

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Ryan called the Democrat's idea a "ridiculous idea" and that they "want to play politics with the debt ceiling".

Analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, say Harvey aid wouldn't cause a cash crunch for weeks. This puts at risk not just the relief package but also about 100 million bills for things like Social Security, Medicare and payments to businesses that provide the USA government with services and goods.

"When it comes to raising the debt ceiling, it's my hope as a conservative that that would be packaged with significant spending reforms and other reforms that would address a $20 trillion national debt", said Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican. They expect that the Senate - after the House votes Wednesday - will take the Harvey funding bill and tack on a provision to avoid a default, and when it is sent over to the House it could pass with mostly Democratic votes.

"I believe that FEMA is going to literally run out of money at the end of this week", Cornyn told reporters Tuesday.

Democrats could still disrupt this month's legislative agenda in response to Trump's plan to eliminate a program that provides some protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the children.

Per a source close to GOP Senate leadership: "Leadership is testing the waters in the Senate for adding the CR..." Republicans also want to tackle tax reform.

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