The framework of a plan to deal with the huge number of looming deadlines facing Congress appeared to take shape Wednesday, but Republicans and Democrats still squabbled over the details of the plan.
The day before, GOP leaders in the Senate announced they would attach a provision addressing the looming debt ceiling deadline onto a Hurricane Harvey relief bill.
Under this plan, the House would pass the nearly $US8 billion Harvey relief bill on Wednesday. Then the Senate would attach a debt ceiling increase or suspension. It would then go back to the House and ideally be on President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the weekend.
The plan, however, drew pushback form some more conservative Republican members who believe that the debt ceiling should be offset with spending cuts to manage the growth of debt. Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both came out against the planned legislation.
In the face of this GOP opposition, the party’s leaders need Democrats to support the bill.
In a statement Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said they would ask their members to vote for the combined package. They said, however, that they would only support a debt-ceiling increase that amounted to a three-month extension.
“Democrats are prepared to offer our votes for the Harvey aid package, and a short term debt limit increase of three months,” the leaders’ statement said. “Given Republican difficulty in finding the votes for their plan, we believe this proposal offers a bipartisan path forward to ensure prompt delivery of Harvey aid as well as avoiding a default, while both sides work together to address government funding, DREAMers, and health care.”
The three-month debt ceiling increase became an immediate point of contention with Republicans, who may want to raise the debt ceiling for longer since a short-term raise would give Democrats another chance for leverage later this year.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the three-month offer was “disgraceful,” charging that Democrats were “playing politics” with the debt ceiling when it needed to be raised to allow borrowing for Hurricane Harvey relief.
In addition to attaching the debt ceiling to the Harvey aid, a report from Axios’ Jonathan Swan said GOP leadership is also considering attaching a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government to the package. If a funding bill is not passed by the end of the month, the federal government would go into a partial shutdown.
That could also lose Democratic support, according to Axios, because they favour attaching to the must-pass bill a measure to protect immigrants living in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program the Trump’s administration announced Tuesday that it was winding down.
While Axios said the details of the plan were not finalised and the votes to get it through the House may not be there, the combined package would allow Congress to deal with many of its major September deadlines in one fell swoop.
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