Washington — Congress on Friday sent President Donald Trump a massive package of $15.3 billion in disaster aid linked to an increase in the nation’s borrowing authority that angered conservative Republicans who hissed and booed senior administration officials dispatched to Capitol Hill to defend it.
Hours later, Trump signed the measure into law.
The House voted 316-90 for the measure that would refill depleted emergency accounts as Florida braces for the impact of Hurricane Irma and Texas picks up the pieces after the devastation of the Harvey storm. All 90 votes in opposition were cast by Republicans, many of whom seethed after Trump cut the disaster-and-debt deal with Democratic leaders with no offsetting budget cuts.
“You can’t just keep borrowing money. We’re going to be $22 trillion in debt,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
The aid measure is just the first installment in government spending that could rival or exceed the $110 billion federal response after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, though future aid packages may be more difficult to pass. The legislation also funds the government through Dec. 8.
In a closed-door meeting before the vote, more than a dozen Republicans stood up and complained about Trump cutting a deal with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi instead of GOP leaders trying to deliver on the president’s agenda.
Budget chief Mick Mulvaney, a former tea party congressman from South Carolina who took a hard line against debt increases during his House tenure, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin faced a rough time in pleading for votes.
Mnuchin elicited hisses when he told the meeting of House Republicans “vote for the debt ceiling for me,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.
Republicans were in disbelief after Mnuchin argued that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be a political issue in the future, said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., described a surreal scene with Mnuchin, a former Democratic donor, and Mulvaney pressing Republicans to rally around the legislation.
“It’s kind of like ‘Where am I? What’s going on here?’ ” Costello said. “If it wasn’t so serious it kind of would have been funny.”
Mulvaney was booed when he stepped to the microphone, though lawmakers said it was good-natured. He defended the deal and Trump.
But Mulvaney further upset Republicans when he wouldn’t promise spending cuts as part of a future debt limit vote.
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