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Congress sends Trump disaster aid, debt limit increase

September 8, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed and sent to President Donald Trump legislation providing $15.25 billion in emergency disaster aid, as well as raising government borrowing authority and funding federal programs through Dec. 8.

The House vote of 316-90 came one day after the Senate passed the measure. Lawmakers rushed to approve the legislation before government disaster aid was projected to run out at week’s end and as the deadly Hurricane Irma headed for Florida. Trump is expected to promptly sign the measure into law.

The $15.25 billion in emergency funding includes $7.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, $450 million for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program and $7.4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump on Wednesday met with congressional leaders to work out a deal to attach to the disaster funding two short-term, three-month measures to fund the federal government at current levels and extended its borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling.

Current government funding was set to expire at the end of the month, with a possible government shutdown looming, and the U.S. Treasury had asked Congress to also raise the debt limit by that time.

Some House Republicans balked at the scope of the deal attaching the two, crucial fiscal measures, calling it a win for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats. More than one-third of House Republicans voted against the legislation.

Schumer and Pelosi were at the White House on Wednesday along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Republicans wanted to raise the debt ceiling for a longer period that would have extended past the 2018 midterm elections. Trump sided with the Democrats, who favored a short-term extension.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse said on Thursday the deal makes Schumer “the most powerful man in America of December.”

“Chuck Schumer has made himself the key man in all negotiations in December because of the legislation,” Sasse said on the Senate floor.

Some moderate House Republicans, however, praised the Trump-brokered deal with Democratic leaders.

“If we can reach across the aisle, we can get things done and not be held hostage,” Representative Peter King told reporters on Friday.

Reporting By Amanda Becker and Richard Cowan; additional reporting by David Morgan