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Harvey victim funds may be delayed without debt limit increase: Mnuchin

06 September 2017

While the package nearly certainly won't be the last funding legislation responding to the damage caused by Harvey in southeastern Texas, it could complicate other urgent matters facing Congress. If he can persuade a majority of the House - 218 members - to sign on, the House will be forced to vote.

McIntosh's statement was a reference to comments Mnuchin made over the weekend, saying that in order to pay for hurricane relief, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling.

But other controversial executive actions on topics such as immigration could still disrupt bipartisan agreements.

Last week, Politico reported that individuals involved in budget negotiations supported bundling Harvey funding in with the continuing resolution to keep the government's lights on for 90 more days. In turn, they have faulted him for poor leadership.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would welcome Democratic help in passing tax reform, it is becoming increasingly clear that it could remain a partisan exercise. Republicans, who came to power with demands that Washington tackle the debt problem, could wind up doing at least as much damage to the nation's finances as the Democrats did. "We must reduce the tax rate on American businesses so they keep jobs in America, create jobs in America, and compete for workers right here in America", he said.

Facing a long list of must-pass legislation this month, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are hoping to quickly approve an initial measure providing $7.95 billion in emergency aid to help relief efforts in the wake of Harvey, which first made landfall in Texas as a hurricane on August 25. The White House has already submitted an initial $7.85 billion emergency funding request; the overall tab could eventually top $100 billion.

The Senate could still bring up another health care bill if they find consensus on legislation that can pass. And Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested a link between the two.

Even that amount could be delayed unless Congress quickly increases the government's debt ceiling, Mnuchin said, as the United States is on track to hit its mandated borrowing limit by the end of the month unless Congress increases it.

Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the panel "will now move to rapidly to act as soon as possible to provide these critical funds" but did not discuss the precise timing for the handling of the request.

The relief proposal comes as the national debt is fast approaching $20 trillion.

Some Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have urged Trump not to end the program and save almost 800,000 from threat of deportation. Prevent a default. Fund the government.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, "Nobody is going to let the US government default on its debt".

Mr. Cornyn said he expected the debt-limit increase would be "clean", meaning it wouldn't be accompanied by any measures to curb federal spending. Democrats have generally supported increasing the debt limit in the past, and most Republicans expect that Democrats will do so again.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, told CNN's Manu Raju he's prepared to battle the White House and Senate GOP over tying a debt limit increase to Harvey aid. As healthcare showed, one GOP strategist told me, "We're a party that doesn't know how to sell ideas any more".

The roughly 40 Freedom Caucus members would not necessarily have the power to block the legislation.

"I don't think there's any indication that Harvey has changed Trump's mind on much of anything", Kondik said.

Despite the conservative outrage, leaders were pressing forward with the plan as a way to sweeten the perennially unpopular debt limit vote. They face the routine but hard work of passing a budget and raising the debt ceiling.

"There's a good chance that Harvey makes all that a little easier", Yarmuth said. We're going to fix this. Republicans faced tough questions from constituents over their handling of the failed health care bill as they looked ahead to an equally divisive debate over tax reform.

Trump might have listened to them. Democrats and Republicans have said money is needed urgently to help people impacted by the storm.