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House passes Hurricane Harvey $7.85 billion aid measure

Trump meets with storm victims
Trump meets with storm victims 01:28

The House passed the first installment Wednesday of emergency funding for the recovery effort following Hurricane Harvey, which will be immediately sent to the Senate.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure in a 419-3 vote. 

When the upper chamber receives the bill, lawmakers are expected to attach a measure to lift the debt ceiling, vote on the package and send it back to the House for a final vote by the end of the week.

The bill prepared by the House Appropriations Committee matches the full $7.85 billion White House request, which includes $7.4 billion for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund and $450 million to to support the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program.

If signed into law, it is only going to be a tiny sliver of what will be expected for the Harvey relief effort. Total losses from Harvey could reach $190 billion, according to a prediction last week by AccuWeather, which would make the storm the most expensive in modern U.S. history. Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1,800 people in 2005, caused $108 billion in damage and total federal spending on the recovery amounted to more than $110 billion.

Congress' long to-do list 04:25

The Freedom Caucus had taken an official position late Tuesday in support of raising the debt limit if only tied to a spending cap, according to spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. Earlier in the day, the group's chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, called it a "terrible" idea.

"Any time you use a tragedy to advance something that should have had a plan without a hurricane happening is not an appropriate approach," he said.

The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee also voiced opposition to tying the debt ceiling to Harvey aid.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, however, urged Congress to approve a "clean" debt ceiling increase, as he said a quick solution is critical to getting Texas and Louisiana the assistance they need.

As in previous debt ceiling debacles, Republicans are relying on Democratic votes to pass it. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 28 to prevent a default on the nation's debt and pass a government spending package to prevent a shutdown by Sept. 30. 

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