President Trump on Wednesday backed a Democratic plan to avert a government shutdown and default, surprising many on Capitol Hill.
Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he supported a Democratic plan to keep government open through a continuing resolution that would expire Dec. 15. He said he also supports a plan to attach a three-month increase in the debt limit to Hurricane Harvey relief. The comments came after the president met with congressional leaders Wednesday morning.
"We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good," Trump said. "We had a very, very cordial and professional meeting. So we have an extension, which will go out on December 15. That will include the debt ceiling, that will include the CRs, and it will include Harvey."
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had proposed including a three-month increase to the debt ceiling in a $7.9 billion disaster relief package for Harvey that came up for a House vote mid-day Wednesday.
“Democrats are prepared to offer our votes for the Harvey aid package, and a short term debt limit increase of three months,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement. “Given Republican difficulty in finding the votes for their plan, we believe this proposal offers a bipartisan path forward to ensure prompt delivery of Harvey aid as well as avoiding a default, while both sides work together to address government funding, DREAMers and health care.”
The House passed the relief package by a vote of 419-3 Wednesday, but without the debt limit increase. Three Republicans—Reps. Justin Amash, Mich.; Andy Biggs, Ariz.; and Thomas Massie, W.Va.—voted against the measure.
Senate leaders had originally planned to extend the nation's borrowing authority until after the 2018 mid-term elections but faced pushback from more conservative members of their caucus, according to Politico.
The plan to attach the debt ceiling hike to disaster relief does not sit well with some conservative lawmakers. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others have already raised objections, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., decried the idea in a Washington Examiner op-ed.
“Putting aid for Harvey victims in limbo because of our own inability to handle pressing deadlines in a timely manner is not only inappropriate, but it sends the wrong message to millions of Americans in Texas and millions more who put us in Washington to do a job,” Meadows wrote. “As Congress moves forward, it is our responsibility to keep Hurricane Harvey relief on a safe, reliable track to passage. We should quickly pass a bill to assist victims with no add-ons, no pork spending and no attachments to gain leverage over separate issues.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has called for a clean increase in the debt ceiling since earlier in the summer. According to Politico, Mnuchin and other White House officials will tell lawmakers that the response to Hurricane Harvey and the possibility of the category-5 Hurricane Irma making landfall in Florida later this week have accelerated the deadline for increasing the government’s borrowing authority, originally estimated to be Sept. 29.