House passes $7.9B Harvey disaster aid package


The U.S. House of Representatives approved almost $8 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief funds Wednesday in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the first of several expected installments to aid recovery in areas devastated by the massive storm. "This bill recklessly increases the national debt because it contains no spending offsets", Massie said in a statement.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday, though, agreed to raise the debt ceiling in conjunction with Harvey relief, Politico reported.

Trump's agreement, which he described to reporters as he flew to an event in Bismark, N.D., came over the objections of his fellow Republicans who ostensibly run Congress, and in effect empowered its Democratic minority to influence the outcome of a range of budget, immigration and tax issues through the end of the year. 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.

The bulk of the funds would replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief coffers. Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling by September 29 to avoid a default and fund the government by September 30, to avoid a shutdown of executive branch operations.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) expressed outrage Wednesday at the notion that Democrats would attempt to protect hundreds of thousands of DACA beneficiaries in an upcoming vote on the debt ceiling, warning that they should not "play politics" as the nation deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and prepares for Hurricane Irma.

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But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, has endorsed the coupling of aid and the debt ceiling lift as a way to ensure funding flows to hurricane hit states through December. 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 US government with services and goods.

In the meeting with Trump, top Hill Republicans - including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy - and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all echoed concerns about the Democrats' demand for a short, three-month debt limit. But many conservative Republicans oppose tying Harvey aid to a debt ceiling measure without related reforms.

"I understand the reality and I'm not going to be intractable on recognizing leadership's realities", Franks said of this month's urgent bills.

Legislation to protect DACA recipients has support from some Republicans. Trump will delay the end of the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, for six months to give Congress the ability pass legislation to codify the protections President Barack Obama created.

The $7.85 billion cash infusion still needs approval in the Senate, where GOP leaders are complicating the matter by saying they want to tie it to a controversial debt hike.