wnol.info July 23 2018

Trump Administration Asks For Nearly $8 Billion Towards Harvey Relief Efforts

July 23 2018, 06:01 | Perry Erickson

Mark Reinstein Corbis via Getty Images

House to vote on nearly $8 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief

McCarthy said the first order of business will be on Wednesday, when the House will vote on an nearly $8 billion emergency disaster relief bill for communities devastated by Harvey, McCarthy 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.

The bill prepared by the House Appropriations Committee matches the full $7.85 billion White House request, which includes $7.4 billion for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund and $450 million to to support the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress won't leave town for the weekend without getting a Harvey aid bill done. The Senate could add a debt ceiling provision to the Harvey bill after the House passes it, but House conservatives have demanded spending cuts or other cost-cutting changes in return for raising the debt limit.

Democratic leaders said they would support tying the debt increase to Harvey aid, but only if the debt increase lasts just three months - which would put Congress right back in another crisis at the end of this year.

"If we resort to just kicking the can down the road on the debt, it only shows that Republicans do not take the problem of our $20 trillion debt seriously", Walker said in a statement. "I think that is ridiculous and disgraceful, that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need to respond to these hurricanes so that we do not strand them".

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President Donald Trump has not explicitly endorsed the plan, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that both he and the president think that the debt limit should be tied to Harvey funding.

"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.

The Senate is expected to attach the money to a debt-limit vote later this week.

Most members of the House Freedom Caucus oppose linking Harvey aid and debt limit, not wanting it to add to the deficit. "We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good". Republicans also want to tackle tax reform. "It is critical, and to do that we need to make sure we raise the debt limit".

The plan appears to have the backing of Republican leaders, but rank-and-file members on Tuesday were less supportive.

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