House approves $7.85 billion Harvey relief package

Congress is expected to pass relief aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey as early as Wednesday and GOP leaders are looking to take advantage of the overwhelming political support for it by including controversial legislation to lift the debt ceiling in the overall package, multiple congressional sources tell NBC News.

Linking the two would help Congress finish two items off its checklist for this month, but they still have to fund the government before the end of the month, reauthorize several expiring programs and likely pass additional rounds for Harvey recovery.

The US Senate will vote on the measure in the next days and may link the aid to increase the ceiling on the national debt.

Politics quickly intruded as Democratic leaders insisted they would back the measure in the Senate only if it were linked to a short-term increase in the nation's borrowing limit, not the longer-term hike that Republicans and the Trump administration want.

"Moving the bill today is important, we want the Senate to act sooner, rather than later", said Republican Representative Kevin Brady of Texas as he left a party meeting on Wednesday morning.

"When it comes to raising the debt ceiling, it's my hope as a conservative that that would be packaged with significant spending reforms and other reforms that would address a $20 trillion national debt", said Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican.

The initial aid package, approved 419-3, is bigger than the amount floated by the White House over the weekend when President Donald Trump made his second trip to Texas in the wake of the storm.

"I think it's a bad idea", Meadows said.

"I think that is ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need to respond to these hurricanes so that we do not strand them", Ryan added.

The Senate is expected to attach the money to a debt-limit vote later this week. The Freedom Caucus will meet late Tuesday to discuss its debt-ceiling strategy, spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said. The White House hinted at calling for an increase to be included in the disaster aid bill.

How Republicans resolve these issues could influence the outcome of next year's congressional elections.

"I would support that", Cornyn told CNN as he arrived back at the Capitol from Texas, where he has been dealing with hurricane relief and clean-up efforts.

The US government debt reached its statutory limit in March, prompting the Treasury Department to suspend sales of certain securities.

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  • Kyle Peterson