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House easily approves nearly $8 billion for Harvey aid — now comes the harder part

  • The House overwhelmingly approves nearly $8 billion in funding for Hurricane Harvey relief.
  • The Senate is now expected to add a measure to raise the federal debt limit to the bill before it goes back to the House.

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to authorize nearly $8 billion in aid funding to respond to Hurricane Harvey.

With the 419-3 vote, the House for now avoids a politically contentious link to raising the debt ceiling, but the bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to pair the measures. If the Senate passes the bill, it will head back to the House later in the week for final passage.

Attaching the often messy debt limit increase to the largely uncontroversial aid package boosts its chances of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. Lawmakers face an end of September deadline to increase the debt ceiling and avoid risking a default on the national debt.

GOP congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have supported attaching the two measures. However, some sticking points remain.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would support an aid package combined with a three-month debt limit extension. Shortly after, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the proposal for only a short-term debt ceiling increase "ridiculous" and "unworkable."

Senate conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., have also signaled they do not want to attach relief to the debt ceiling, in any case.

However, if all 48 Democratic and independent senators support the package, only 12 of 52 Republicans will need to back it for it to clear the Senate.