Trump Backs Harvey Aid, Changes Priorities, Breaks With Republicans

President Donald Trump is supporting the Democrat plan to bundle aid for Hurricane Harvey together with extending the federal debt ceiling and continue funding government operations. En route to a speech in North Dakota aboard Air Force One, the president told reporters on the plane that the deal would be “very good.”

The decision followed a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday and appeared to catch congressional Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan, off guard. Ryan said hours earlier that combining the aid and raising the debt ceiling for three months was “ridiculous” and “unworkable.”

According to NBC News, Ryan told reporters at a Wednesday morning press conference that it was “disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling in this moment when we have fellow citizens in need,” opposing the plan that the president and Democrats agreed upon.

The resolution continues government operations and raises the debt ceiling until December 15, when Congress will have to vote on the issue again. Conservative Republicans do not want to increase the debt ceiling. Three Republicans — Justin Amash, Andy Biggs, and Thomas Massie — were the only members of the House of Representatives to vote “no” on aid for Harvey victims in Texas and Louisiana and extending the debt ceiling for three months.

Pence, Trump and Schumer agree Hurricane aid
Vice President Mike Pence and President, Donald Trump agree with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sept. 6, 2017 [Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]

Trump’s agreement with Democrats may have come as a surprise to some conservative Republicans in the Senate. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has formally opposed raising the federal debt ceiling many times and refused to tell reporters whether he supported the combination of Hurricane Harvey aid and raising the debt ceiling.

The other Texas senator, John Cornyn, said Tuesday, “I believe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will literally run out of money by the end of the week.”

He said that it was “imperative” to get the spending bill passed to help Texas in the wake of the massive hurricane and flooding.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was "ridiculous and disgraceful" to play politics with Harvey relief efforts Sept. 6, 2017, on Capitol Hill. [Image by Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images]

The House of Representatives has already overwhelmingly passed the bill combining aid for Hurricane Harvey victims and raising the federal debt ceiling.

The Senate still needs to vote. Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would work to get the bill passed as quickly as possible, saying Hurricanes Harvey and Irma both needed federal aid.

“That’s what I will be offering, based on the president’s decision, to the (House of Representatives) bill,” he told Reuters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “We’ll try to get 60 votes and move forward.”

The total amount of aid for Harvey victims will be about $8 billion, the New York Times reported.

[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]