Washington, United States | AFP | The US Senate passed a $15.25 billion relief package Thursday for victims of Hurricane Harvey, in an effort to fully fund federal emergency operations as another potentially catastrophic storm bears down on Florida.
The package passed 80 to 17 one day after President Donald Trump and congressional leaders announced a shock deal that includes the hurricane relief, as well as temporarily lifting of the US debt ceiling and funding of the federal government.
The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives, which approved a smaller, stand-alone emergency relief package Wednesday that did not include language about the debt ceiling or government funding.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, the state which bore the brunt of devastation from Hurricane Harvey, said it was “unfortunate” that leaders tied the relief bill to funding and debt ceiling extensions.
Attaching emergency funding for hurricane relief to a must-pass CR & debt limit increase is a dereliction of Congress’s most routine duties. pic.twitter.com/nH5q6FXmMe
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 7, 2017
But he voted for the measure anyway, saying it was vital to have “immediate” funding for hurricane relief, even if it was only a first step in a much larger need for aid.
Leaders of a group of far-right House conservatives, the Republican Study Committee, have come out against the package because it ties relief funding to the debt ceiling, which they see as a tool for negotiating over spending.
But with most if not all Democrats expected to support the package, the House could still pass the legislation and send it to Trump for his signature.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, noting that the monster Hurricane Irma was now tracking toward Florida, said there was “a sense of urgency to get this relief package done.”