Will Harvey Relief Bill Help Avert a Debt Ceiling Crisis?
The Debt

Will Harvey Relief Bill Help Avert a Debt Ceiling Crisis?

Rick Wilking

The Trump administration has asked for a $7.85 billion “down payment” for emergency Harvey relief funding through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, with $7.4 billion of that money slated to go to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and $450 million for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program. The House is scheduled to vote on the initial aid package Wednesday, and will likely vote on an administration request for an additional $6.7 billion later this month.

Will Harvey aid be used to grease the path for more contentious must-pass legislation, like an increase in the debt ceiling?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that he and the president want to tie the debt ceiling to Harvey aid. And Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested a link between the two. “If the debt ceiling is not raised, it may not be possible to outlay the requested supplemental appropriations or funds for other critical Government operations,” he wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan Friday night.

House conservatives may not play along. They have previously demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the House Freedom Caucus last week warned against tying the debt ceiling to Harvey aid. “We’re going to fund Harvey relief without a doubt, but I think it just sends the wrong message when you start attaching it to the debt ceiling,” he said. And Rep. Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said Monday that bringing the debt ceiling into the disaster relief bill could threaten urgent Harvey aid.

In hopes of warding off a possible backlash, some Republicans are hoping President Trump provides them with some cover. “GOP leaders are hoping Trump will come out and ask publicly for a debt limit-Harvey bill, giving them cover with unhappy members of the party’s right flank,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Rachel Bade report. “Conservative complaints about a debt ceiling lift that doesn’t cut spending are only likely to crescendo in the week ahead and could cause serious problems — particularly because other more moderate Republicans are also unhappy with the strategy.”

This article has been updated to correct the amount of SBA relief funding from $450 billion to $450 million.