House bill wouldn't tie hurricane relief to raising debt limit

The Capitol is seen during a heavy rain in Washington in July

The U.S. House of Representatives approved almost $8 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief funds Wednesday in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the first of several expected installments to aid recovery in areas devastated by the massive storm. Ryan said it would be "ridiculous and disgraceful" for Democrats to leverage the debt ceiling for their agenda when Harvey caused historic damage and Hurricane Irma threatens to strike Florida.

Democrats are offering to support the Senate bill as long as the debt ceiling increase is only for three months.

Representative Mark Walker, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, told reporters on Wednesday he did not think "there is a single Republican who would have a problem doing some kind of relief package" but cautioned against tying it to a debt ceiling bill.

"They want to play politics with the debt ceiling?"

Ryan also responded to a question about whether he could force a budget through without Democratic support, saying it would be impossible without Democratic cooperation.

This ill-timed vote on proposed cuts to disaster funds were decided on well before Harvey was a real thing.

Most of that money would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while about $450 million would go to the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program.

McCarthy warned members the House would remain in town to complete work on Harvey aid and depending on how the Senate votes that could mean a final House vote late Friday or Saturday - according to multiple House GOP members.

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The Senate has until September 29 to raise the debt ceiling and until September 30 to fund the government in the new fiscal year, which McCarthy said would likely be a bill to extend federal funding for another three months. The House has already drafted a measure and is expected to send it to the Senate this week.

The House attached the disaster relief to a bill that updates practices for USA assistance to promote basic education in developing countries.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have hard tasks ahead as they contend with warring factions in their own party and a president who won't hesitate to criticize them.

In the Senate, though, leaders are expected to attach the plan to the debt ceiling increase. His Senate counterpart, Dick Durbin, said he was "open to it" but that it depended on the length of the debt limit increase. That puts the onus back on House Republicans, many of whom oppose raising the debt limit.

"I believe that FEMA is going to literally run out of money this week, at the end of this week", Cornyn said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress won't leave town for the weekend without getting a Harvey aid bill done.

"This takes 60 votes in the Senate", Ryan said. Republicans also want to tackle tax reform.

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