President Donald Trump has drawn the ire of some in the conservative wing of his party for siding with Democrats on a grand deal to address Hurricane Harvey relief, funding the government, and raising the debt ceiling.
Trump sided with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday when he agreed to attach a deal to suspend the debt ceiling and fund the government for only three months without offsetting spending cuts.
Many conservatives on Thursday said the deal caves to Democrats by omitting those spending cuts.
And other Republicans say the short-term increase could allow Democrats leverage in December, when they could attach a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program to debt-ceiling legislation. The DACA program currently allows about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors without documentation to live and work in the country legally.
During the meeting, every Republican leader and Trump’s own Treasury secretary were against the deal the president struck with Democrats.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said they would support the deal, many conservatives are revolting.
On the House side, influential conservative groups within the Republican conference have already expressed serious concerns about the package.
Rep. Mark Walker, the chair of the Republican Study Committee, which boasts roughly 155 House members, sent a letter to Ryan on Thursday saying the group would require additional reforms to vote for the package.
“While some have advocated for a ‘clean’ debt limit increase, this would simply increase the borrowing authority of the government while irresponsibly ignoring the urgency of reforms,” said the letter. “Worse yet is attaching the debt limit to legislation that continues the status quo or even worsens the trajectory on spending, such as the deal announced yesterday by the President and Congressional Leadership.”
The hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus has also expressed opposition to the package. But the group’s chair said it realized it did not have the votes to stop it, since Democrats would likely vote overwhelmingly for the package.
“It’s not something that any of us advocated for,” Rep. Mark Meadows, the chair of the Freedom Caucus, said at a Bloomberg breakfast with reporters.
In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is offering an alternative amendment – named the America First amendment – that pairs the debt ceiling increase with cuts to foreign aid and other spending. The amendment will be voted on by the Senate Thursday.
Sen. Ben Sasse also blasted the deal and offered his own amendment to strip the debt-ceiling and government-funding provisions from the Harvey relief bill.
But Sen. Ted Cruz announced on Thursday that he would back the bill despite being against clean debt limit suspension.
“It is unfortunate that congressional leadership and the administration chose to tie Harvey relief to short-term extensions to the CR and the debt ceiling,” Cruz said in a statement. “Historically, the CR and debt ceiling have proven to be the only effective leverage for meaningful spending reform, and I believe we should continue to use them as tools to reduce our long-term debt. I would have much preferred a clean Harvey relief bill – which would have passed both Houses nearly unanimously.”
McConnell said Wednesday he would attach the package as an amendment to the Harvey relief bill that was already passed by the House, which will then be sent back to the lower chamber for a final vote.