Kevin McCarthy: Listen to Mnuchin, Tie Harvey Relief to Debt Ceiling

Kevin McCarthy: Listen to Mnuchin, Tie Harvey Relief to Debt Ceiling”

House leaders have announced plans to vote Wednesday on a bill to deliver disaster relief to Texas as it recovers from Harvey.

Wednesday's House vote comes as the government's response to Harvey is draining existing disaster reserves, with Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster accounts hovering at $1 billion or less. An additional $450 million would help finance disaster loans to small businesses through the Small Business Association.

If the combined bill passes the Senate, it would be sent back to the House for consideration.

"FEMA is literally running out of funds at the end of this week, unless we act with dispatch to (authorize the funds) which the House will do tomorrow, and unless we raise the debt ceiling", Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

"We wouldn't do a clean debt-ceiling increase under a Democratic president".

Asked about timing of the Senate's action, he said a vote would take place "soon", adding that "we'll get it done this week".

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he was acting to deliver on President Donald Trump's top priorities of providing Harvey relief, preventing a default on the debt and avoiding a government shutdown when its current funding expires on October 1.

The vote would come as a stand-alone measure, and not be tied to the contentious issue of increasing the nation's borrowing limit.

Congress could have another chance to use a popular Harvey aid package to raise the debt ceiling later in the month.

And knowing that legislation is likely to sail through, GOP leaders chose to attach the less popular debt-ceiling increase, hoping to take care of a potential political headache.

"It's imperative we get that supplemental passed", Mr. Cornyn told reporters.

It's a strategy the Trump administration has also blessed, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying that approving hurricane relief money won't do any good if the government can't legally borrow the money. "Always", Club President David McIntosh said in a statement Tuesday, in which he also said the debt ceiling should be decoupled from Harvey aid.

Trump has been vocal on the issue, and he's suggested tying the debt ceiling issue to other measures in the past.

"Without raising the debt limit, I'm not comfortable that we will get the money that we need this month to Texas to rebuild", Mnuchin said.

Republican conservatives were concerned that the various urgent items would be packaged together and rushed through in a way that would prevent lawmakers from attaching conditions that could restrain or even reform government spending.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, has stayed firm on his position that the debt ceiling should not be tied to a relief bill.

Rep. Mark Walker, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, another influential conservative caucus, said the whole thing smelled like a "backroom deal" between Mr. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

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