The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said his party’s leaders better not attach a Hurricane Harvey relief package to legislation that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
Meadows told the Washington Post Thursday that it would be a ‘terrible idea’ and be ‘conflating two different issues.’
‘The Harvey relief would pass on its own, and to use that as a vehicle to get people to vote for a debt ceiling is not appropriate,’ Meadows told the Post.
Freedom Caucus Chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told the Washington Post that it would be ill-advised for Congressional leaders to attach a Hurricane Harvey relief package to the debt ceiling vote that will need to happen by the end of September
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and other conservatives members of the Republican Party want ‘guardrails’ put in place on any debt ceiling bill, to prevent the further ballooning of federal spending. The White House wants a clean bill passed
‘That sends all the wrong message: “Let’s go ahead and increase the debt ceiling, and by the way, while we’re doing it let’s go ahead and spend another $15, $20 billion?”‘ the fiscally-conservative caucus leader said.
‘That’s not to undercut the importance of Harvey relief,’ Meadows added. ‘We’re going to fund Harvey relief without a doubt, but I think it just sends the wrong message when you start attaching it to the debt ceiling.’
While the White House has long advocated for a clean debt ceiling bill, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leading the charge, the conservatives in the Freedom Caucus have wanted the bill to include triggers that would prevent rampant federal spending.
‘Having some guardrails for fiscal responsibility is certainly important and to just ignore it would not be prudent,’ Meadows told the Post.
This split between the conservatives and the more moderate GOP House members could come to a head more quickly as the cost of Harvey may creep up the debt deadline to before the original Sept. 29 date, Mnuchin warned on Thursday.
Lawmakers fear a Harvey package being attached to a debt ceiling bill because the optics of voting against it would be so bad.
And the debt ceiling is just one of two major deadlines Congress must contend with in September, as the government needs a funding bill passed as well.
Instead of tethering a relief package to the debt ceiling, Congressional leaders could tie it to the budget instead.
With lawmakers practically forced to vote for it, that move could prevent a government shutdown later in the fall.
Right now the most controversial budgetary hurdle is President Trump’s border wall.
Democrats won’t vote for it and Trump has threatened a shutdown over wall funding being passed.
Most Republicans aren’t keen on a shutdown, as they realize their party and the president, not the Democrats, will likely shoulder the blame.
A senior Democratic aide told Politico that a border free-wall funding bill, which included Hurricane Harvey dollars, could give the president ‘an out’ from his government shutdown threat.
On Monday at his press conference the president said his demands for wall funding, and for hurricane recovery dollars, are two different things, hinting he wanted the bills kept separate.
‘I think it has nothing to do with it,’ Trump told reporters at the White House. ‘I think this is separate.’