Senate leaders are prepared to vote this week on legislation that would pair an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit with $7.9 billion in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey despite opposition from conservatives.
The first installment of Harvey aid is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency reserves, ABC reported.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is rejecting a Democratic idea to tie Harvey aid to a three-month increase in the debt limit.
"In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large costs of storm recovery", McConnell said, pointing out that a second hurricane, which appears to be potentially poised to hit Florida, could be on the way and could stretch FEMA funds even thinner.
Wednesday's vote concurs with Senate changes made to the bill, which has passed both chambers by voice vote.
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. This puts at risk not just the relief package but also about 100 million bills for things like Social Security, Medicare and payments to businesses that provide the US government with services and goods.
Republicans in Congress are livid because they did not want a short term government funding deal.
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinRepublican strategy on debt ceiling takes shape GOP leaders to give Trump bitter pill on spending, debt Trump playing active role in push to reform tax code MORE said on "Fox News Sunday" that the costs of disaster relief may push up the deadline for the debt limit, which was originally expected to be reached on September 29. "They ought to be separate bills", said Arlington Rep. Joe Barton, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, on Tuesday.
The decision to combine the two unrelated measures is a potentially risky strategy that could further alienate conservatives who have insisted that any debt-limit increase be paired with corresponding spending cuts.
"I know that securing this emergency funding is very important for the president", McConnell said.
"Any time you use a tragedy to advance something that should have had a plan without a hurricane happening is not an appropriate approach", he said. "If we resort to just kicking the can down the road on the debt, it only shows that Republicans do not take the problem of our $20 trillion debt seriously".
Both Amash and Massie also opposed approving aid for Hurricane Sandy in 2013, along with all but 49 of their fellow House Republicans. "We have no excuse why we can't do it now with Republican leadership".
Ryan called the Democrat's idea a "ridiculous idea" and that they "want to play politics with the debt ceiling".
"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.
"I think that's a mistake", he said.