In their small number of working days between now and the end of the month, Congress faces the following decisions: passing a bill to avert a USA debt default, renewing government funding to avoid a partial shutdown, reauthorizing critical programs including the Federal Aviation Administration, extending funds for health insurance for about 9 million children and agreeing on emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
"The idea of coupling an increase in the debt ceiling with a Harvey spending bill is equally abhorrent", Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement.
One leading congressional expert doubts a tax bill will be approved and expects Congress to only pass the "bare minimum" in the coming months, blaming Trump's "behavior" for the inability to pass more. They and the White House have until the end of September-during which (pdf) the House is in session for just 12 days and the Senate for 18-to pass multiple bills and amendments, or risk tanking the United States stock markets, shutting down the government, and depriving hundreds of thousands of people devastated by Hurricane Harvey of the aid they need to rebuild.
The U.S. government spends more money than it brings in through revenue, and it borrows money to cover the difference by issuing debt. This process was crucial to passing a repeal bill because Republicans have only 52 votes in the Senate, short of the 60 normally required to override a filibuster. That would take Democratic votes, and obtaining them would probably require an increase in non-defense spending, anathema to many Republicans. "In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large costs of storm recovery".
Tax reform is the top Republican legislative priority right now, and it will be a revealing test of the ability of the president and Congress to work together for the benefit of the conservative agenda. The bad news is that the government has used so many accounting gimmicks to hide the real debt that it probably totals somewhere around $67 trillion.
"The president and I believe that it [raising the debt ceiling] should be tied to the Harvey funding", Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. "That's our priority. We need to help the people in Texas, and we need to get that done".
At that point lawmakers could add more money for Texas and Louisiana and fight it out over Trump's call for money for a wall along on the U.S. -Mexico border.
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Some House conservatives are opposed to directly pairing disaster aid with a debt limit increase. Other senior GOP aides told the AP that no final decision had been made, and Democrats, whose votes would be needed in the Senate, have yet to signal support. For instance, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said funding for Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border would be addressed in December, when the CR would likely run out again.
Republicans are split. Two sources tell NBC the administration may include a six-month delay, buying time for Congress to fix it.
While the package nearly certainly won't be the last funding legislation responding to the damage caused by Harvey in southeastern Texas, it could complicate other urgent matters facing Congress.
"I'm open to the discussion on the (debt ceiling), I'm not sure we're ready to go on the CR yet", Cornyn said.
The federal government is expected to reach its debt limit in late September or early October unless Congress acts to raise the limit.
Brian Gardner, managing editor of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in Washington, said the political optics of engaging in partisan fighting following a disaster like Hurricane Harvey would also help Congress to pass the necessary legislation.
Meadows is referencing how conservatives in the House are not pressing so far for the Harvey aid to be accompanied by any spending cuts or offsets - a position many of them took in 2013 when Congress voted on emergency money after Superstorm Sandy.
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