House set to pass Harvey relief Wednesday amid debt-limit debate

House set to pass Harvey relief Wednesday amid debt-limit debate”

Almost two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the U.S. House is scheduled to vote on a nearly $8 billion disaster relief package for those affected by the storm and the consequent flooding.

Republican leaders for now are bowing to the demands of their most conservative members and won't combine legislation raising the USA debt ceiling with Harvey aid, a House Republican aide said Monday. And multiple Republicans tell CNN that with another hurricane threatening to impact Florida later this week and more detailed assessments coming in terms of the costs of recovery is Texas they expect more votes on additional disaster relief this fall.

The combined bill would then face another vote in the House, where it will face more resistance from GOP lawmakers who don't want to raise the debt limit without taking steps to rein in federal spending. 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.

Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, said members were surprised by the idea to attach the aid to the debt ceiling. According to her, tying the two is "opportunistic" and allows US lawmakers to avoid having a hard conversation on cutting spending.

Republican leaders have promised that the debt ceiling will be raised in time.

"And the leader has made the decision to attach the debt limit to that, and I support that", Cornyn said. If Congress appropriates the money, but I don't have the ability to borrow more money and pay for it, we're not going to be able to get that money to the state. Tying the controversial debt limit bill to the Harvey relief package could make it easier to swallow for some lawmakers and further ensure its passage. "Why would you do that under a Republican president?"

Senate leaders insisted both moves are immediately necessary for the recovery effort, since an increase in the debt ceiling is needed by the end of the month.

"We're dealing with all these things at this point in time anyway", said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of NY.

"I would support that", Cornyn told CNN as he arrived back at the Capitol from Texas, where he has been dealing with hurricane relief and clean-up efforts.

The initial bill before the House, H.R. 3672, would only include funds for FEMA and additional money for the Small Business Administration - aimed at helping victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston and other parts of the Gulf coast - despite a suggestion by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to include a debt-ceiling increase to prevent a U.S. default.

If the debt limit is not increased, Mnuchin might have to make decisions about which payments to prioritize and which to hold off paying.

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