Initial Harvey aid may have lots of baggage attached

Just how much baggage can Congressional leaders attach to urgently needed disaster relief? We’re about to find out. The House voted on a clean bill to fund initial Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts this afternoon, but it won’t remain clean for long:


The House is expected to pass the first installment Wednesday of emergency funding for the recovery effort following Hurricane Harvey, which will be immediately sent to the Senate.

When the upper chamber receives the bill, lawmakers are expected to attach a measure to lift the debt ceiling, vote on the package and send it back to the House for a final vote by the end of the week.

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.

They succeed in pushing it through just after noon today:

That’s where it will get sticky, according to Axios’ Jonathan Swan. Mitch McConnell wants to kill three birds with one very expensive stone:

Senate Republican leadership is privately contemplating a bold maneuver: attaching the government funding bill (CR) to the debt ceiling and emergency funding aid for Hurricane Harvey.

Three sources with knowledge of the discussions confirmed them to Axios. They stressed nothing has been decided and the move would be highly risky, with a strong chance of a conservative revolt. It’s especially unclear whether such a vehicle could move through the House — given the Freedom Caucus and other conservative members are already angry about the plans to use the Harvey funding to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts.


Would the Freedom Caucus be able to hold it up? That seems unlikely, as Paul Ryan could depend on a significant number of Democrats to cross over and support the debt-ceiling hike and the CR. He couldn’t get that with ObamaCare repeal for obvious reasons, but there is no ideological opposition to any of the three main components across the aisle this time. Ryan would take a shellacking for it, but he could probably get it shoved through the House.

Would Donald Trump would sign it, though? Maybe, maybe not. McConnell claims that all three components are Trump priorities too, and he’d be fine with combining them up, but would a lack of funding for the border wall in the CR stall the bill?

“These are the president’s immediate priorities: pass disaster relief, prevent a default, fund the government. They are my immediate priorities as well,” McConnell told colleagues on the Senate floor Tuesday. …

“I hope the president tells Congress if that kind of package is on the table they should stuff it,” said David Bozell, president of For America, a conservative advocacy group.

Trump threatened to shut down the government over border wall funding at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix last month, though he has softened his tone since Harvey made landfall.

“I keep going back to May, when the omnibus package was passed and Trump signed it in the middle of the night in Bedminster with no cameras around. That’s not winning to him, and I don’t think he’s going to put himself through that again,” Bozell added.


It’s true that Trump was unhappy about those circumstances, but he didn’t have much choice then. He would probably have less choice now, especially with a bill that had bipartisan support and billions of aid for immediate relief in Texas. He can live to fight the border-wall battle in December without tying up aid, and by December the aid issue in Texas will have slipped more into the background for most Americans. Strategically it’s a better plan, even if it looks like a tactical retreat now for conservatives — which, of course, it would be.

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