WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday sided with Democrats in backing a package that ties emergency disaster aid for Harvey-ravaged Texas and Louisiana to an extension of federal spending and an increased debt limit through Dec. 15.
Trump confirmed the deal after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that they and GOP congressional leaders had reached it following a White House meeting with the president on the packed September agenda.
“We had a very good meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One on its way to North Dakota. “We essentially came to a deal, and I think the deal will be very good.”
After the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi issued a statement that said “the president and congressional leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a continuing resolution both to Dec. 15, all together.”
In agreeing with the Democrats, Trump overruled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who all opposed that legislative package, according to several reports.
The president’s decision gives Democrats a victory and leverage to push for other legislation they deem of top importance.
Schumer identified two of those priorities as legalizing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump ended Tuesday, and a long-term bill funding insurers to stabilize the individual health insurance market created by Obamacare.
McConnell, speaking to reporters after caucus lunches, acknowledged that Trump had agreed with Schumer and Pelosi on tying the short-term government spending and debt ceiling to the Harvey disaster aid, and said he will offer that package based on the president’s decision.
“And we’ll try to get 60 votes and move it forward,” McConnell said.
Asked why Trump made that call, McConnell said, “His feeling was that we needed to come together, to not create a picture of divisiveness, at a time of genuine national crisis.”
On Wednesday morning, Ryan criticized the plan Schumer and Pelosi proposed, tying the aid to a three-month debt limit increase, and accused Democrats of “playing politics” with badly needed disaster aid for Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
“I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference, explaining that the short-term debt ceiling increase “could put in jeopardy the kind of aid we need.”
Schumer, speaking to reporters after the luncheons, hailed the president’s decision to back the Democratic proposal.
“To his credit, he went with the better arguments,” he said. “Today was a good day in a generally very partisan town.”
In an overwhelming bipartisan 419-3 vote, the House passed a $7.85 billion bill that represents the first step to approving the Trump administration’s request for $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $450 million for the Small Business Administration for disaster loans.
Conservative Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voted against the aid package.
All of Long Island’s representatives voted for the aid. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who was at his mother’s funeral, was among the 11 representatives who did not vote. But Suozzi would have voted for the aid, his spokesman Lou Wasson said.