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On Thursday, the Senate passed a combination bill, with an overwhelming majority, which included multiple authorizations for disaster relief related to Hurricane Harvey. The bill also included a provision to raise the debt ceiling and stave off a government shutdown until December 8. The bill moves to the House, with the expectation that it will be voted on swiftly to avoid any increased objections from the warring factions among House conservatives.
The Senate’s bill included $7.4 billion housing grants for the Harvey victims which will add to the total relief from the House bill that will authorize another $7.9 billion for FEMA. There is also $450 million set up for a disaster loan program through the Small Business Authority. The Senate bill kicks the can of debt ceiling to December to give Congress more time to negotiate spending provisions for the government budget.
The disaster relief is a welcome start for the victims of Hurricane Harvey: however, Hurricanes Irma and Jose are both poised to add to the strain of the funding-strapped emergency agencies like FEMA. The deals being struck here appear bipartisan, but what we might be seeing is an Executive branch, frustrated by the lack of of legislative victories from their party’s majority in Congress,attempting to gain leverage on the conservatives by creating a coalition with willing Republicans and Democrats. It’s an interesting strategy in the wake of an election that gave majorities to the Republicans across the board, but one that can work short term for Trump’s desire to sign popular bills into law.