House passes $7.9B Harvey disaster aid package

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WASHINGTON (AP) Developments on Wednesday, Sept. 6, about Congress and the effort to pass Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funding (all times Eastern Daylight Time).

  • 12:13 p.m.

The House passed a $7.9 billion Harvey aid package. Republicans and Democrats united behind help for victims of that storm even as an ever more powerful new hurricane bore down on Florida.

The 419 to 3 vote sent the aid package — likely the first of several — to the Senate in hopes of sending the bill to President Donald Trump before dwindling disaster reserves run out at the end of the week.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, whose Houston district was slammed by Harvey, promised that “help is on the way.”

Senate Republicans hope to add an increase to the government’s borrowing limit, but Democrats announced they only support a short-term increase.

Some New York Democrats reminded Texas Republicans of their votes opposing Superstorm Sandy aid five years ago.

  • 11:40 a.m.

President Trump met with congressional leaders at the White House, and he noted they had a full plate of issues, and he hoped “we can solve them in a rational way.”

One immediate matter was Harvey aid.

The country has “a lot of great assets and we have some liabilities that we have to work out so we’ll see if we can do that,” Trump said.

  • 10:35 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., rejected the Democrats idea to tie Harvey aid to only a three-month increase in the debt limit.

Ryan told reporters it was a “ridiculous idea” and said this was no time to play politics with the debt ceiling while Texas recovers from the devastation of Harvey and Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.,  said they would back the Harvey aid if it was linked to the three-month debt increase, not the longer term debt hike that Republicans have been seeking. Senate Republicans want to link Harvey aid to debt limit increase into 2019 after the midterm elections.

  • 9:55 a.m.

Top Congressional Democrats said they were willing to pair a short-term increase in the government’s borrowing cap with the Harvey aid bill.

Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer said a three-month debt limit increase would help ensure that Congress would tackle health care, immigration, and looming budget cuts.

Republican leaders indicated they wanted to link a $7.9 billion initial installment of disaster aid with a debt limit increase — allowing the government to borrow freely again to cover its bills.

The move by Pelosi and Schumer appeared aimed at preserving Democratic leverage with Congress confronting a weighty fall agenda.

  • 4:00 a.m.

The House was expected to act quickly to pass the president’s request for a $7.9 billion first installment of Harvey relief.

The government’s response to Harvey has drained existing disaster reserves, with FEMA’s disaster accounts hovering at $1 billion or less. FEMA officials warned lawmakers that disaster funds run out on Friday and Hurricane Irma hadn’t even arrived yet.

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