House Sets Vote on Harvey Aid Without Debt Limit Raise

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wants issues combined
  • Senate still could add debt-ceiling increase before vote

How Harvey Impacts the Debt Ceiling Debate

The House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a Hurricane Harvey relief bill that won’t contain language aimed at staving off a U.S default on its debt.

Republican leaders for now are bowing to the demands of their most conservative members and won’t combine legislation raising the U.S. debt ceiling with Harvey aid, a House Republican aide said Monday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday that the two issues should be combined. Mnuchin has said the debt limit must be raised by Sept. 29 in order to avoid a market-shaking default.

The House Appropriations Committee on Sunday released the text of the Harvey bill, which would provide $7.4 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund and $450 million to the Small Business Administration without cutting spending elsewhere in the budget. The bill’s spending levels match a Friday request from the White House.

The Senate could add a debt-ceiling increase to the bill once it arrives from the House. That would mean the House would need to vote again on the changed bill before it could be sent to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

A top House conservative said Monday he would oppose any effort to use the Harvey aid bill to raise the debt ceiling.

ORANGE, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Chris Rogers, a volunteer with Merging Vets and Players, helps to distribute food and water to flood victims after the town was inundated when torrential rains pounded Southeast Texas following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey causing widespread flooding on September 3, 2017 in Orange, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi August 25, has dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in and around areas Houston.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A volunteer helps distribute food and water to flood victims in Orange, Texas on Sept. 3.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Kicking the Can

“As we have stated for months, the debt ceiling should be paired with significant fiscal and structural reforms,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina said in a statement. “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.”

Mark Meadows, the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, issued a similar warning in interviews last week. The Freedom Caucus will meet late Tuesday to discuss its debt-ceiling strategy, according to spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.

Congress could have another chance to use a popular Harvey aid package to raise the debt ceiling later in the month. President Trump has asked that a stopgap spending bill needed to keep the government open after Oct. 1 allow FEMA to immediately access $6.7 billion available in the 2018 fiscal year.

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