Congressional Democrats back Harvey aid with 3-mo. debt limit increase

by Garry Watts September 7, 2017, 1:30
Congressional Democrats back Harvey aid with 3-mo. debt limit increase

Congressional Republicans and Democrats were meeting with the president to increase the debt ceiling, prevent a government shutdown and pass a spending package to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which recently hit the Gulf coast of the United States.

"Despite the fact that some of the representatives for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey heavily criticized and voted against the assistance provided in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, I wholeheartedly support the funding in this bill and expect a much larger request from the administration, including funding to mitigate damage from future storms", said New York Democrat Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

"We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good", Trump said.

The U.S. House voted Wednesday to fund nearly $8 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief, with full support from the Texas delegation.

"The president can speak for himself, but his feeling was that we needed to come together to not create a picture of divisiveness at a time of genuine national crisis, and that was the rationale".

Senate GOP leaders indicated Tuesday they plan to attach an increase in the debt limit, a politically hard vote for many Republicans, to the popular Harvey aid. If not, the government would be unable to borrow more money or pay its bills, including its debt payments.

The remarkable turn of events left Republican congressional leaders, in control of both chambers of the legislative branch, "shell-shocked" and "visibly annoyed", and showcased how a President who also authored "The Art of the Deal" actually cuts one.

At one point late in the meeting, the president's daughter Ivanka entered the Oval Office to say hello, said an aide briefed on the discussion.

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Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, was quick to denounce the "Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal".

Other people familiar with the meeting said Trump and congressional leaders had a prolonged discussion on how long to extend the debt limit, and after Democrats rejected GOP leaders' proposed 18-month and six-month extensions, eventually the president said he agreed with Democrats on a three-month plan.

"We discussed that also today, and Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I", Trump told reporters. Failure to increase the debt limit could cause the government to miss payments to bondholders and result in a default on government debt.

Trump's decision to side with Democrats appears to have ruffled feathers in his own party. Senate Republicans want to link Harvey aid to debt limit increase into 2019 after the midterm elections. The House approved the measure in a 419-3 vote.

Ryan on Wednesday said "we will not leave" until the relief package is passed.

The agreement comes as Congress, which reconvened this week following the August recess, faces a series of pressing fiscal deadlines.

Under the House bill, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would get $7.4 billion to distribute through its Disaster Relief Fund. But while the Democratic offer could make up for lost conservative votes, it would mean revisiting the debt-ceiling debate in just three months, an option some lawmakers want to avoid.

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