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House approves $ 15bn Harvey relief and spending package

US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Washington, DC.Image copyright Reuters

The US House of Representatives has approved a $ 15bn (£11bn) relief bill, which also raised America’s borrowing limit, despite Republican pushback.

Congress raced to push through the bill as Houston recovers from Hurricane Harvey flooding and Florida braces for the more powerful Hurricane Irma.

President Donald Trump stunned conservatives when he struck a deal with Democrats to pass the measure.

The package also keeps the government funded for three more months.

The Republican-controlled House voted 316-90 on the measure, which would send more money to the exhausted emergency response federal accounts.

The bill is the first instalment of a disaster package that could surpass the more than $ 100bn provided after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Conservatives were reluctant to pass the measure, which Democrats proposed tying to a short-term debt increase that sets up a fiscal showdown at the end of the year.

In a surprise move, Mr Trump on Wednesday sided with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi instead of backing his own party’s plan to increase the limit for a longer period, until after the 2018 mid-term elections.

The deal raises the debt limit and funds the government through 8 December.


Uneasy bargain – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The Trump administration has avoided a high-stakes showdown over government funding at the end of September thanks, in no small part, to help from Democrats.

The Trump deal with top congressional Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi shocked Washington on Wednesday. Now we know the exact how badly the bargain fractured Republican ranks.

Seventeen out of 51 Republicans in the Senate voted against the hurricane relief bill – not an easy stand to take – while 90 of the 247 in the House of Representatives did so.

Democrats, on the other hand, were unanimous in their support. Without their backing, the measure would have failed.

The president has basked in the warm coverage of his decision to reach across party aisles, reportedly remarking about it in a Thursday call with Democratic House leader Pelosi.

Although Mr Trump regularly bashes the mainstream media, he is clearly sensitive to how he’s portrayed. Some conservatives worry that this positive feedback may encourage more presidential attempts at bipartisanship in the coming days.

If this week’s votes are any indication, there are plenty of Republicans in Congress who will turn their back on the president if this trend continues.

Read more from Anthony: What was the president thinking?


It is unclear when Mr Trump plans to sign the disaster aid package, but the White House praised Congress for delivering money to Harvey victims.

The White House said on Friday that providing government funding over the next three months “gives Americans the certainty they deserve, and we look forward to finding a permanent solution in the months to come”.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those who initially dismissed the Democratic proposal, calling it “unworkable” and “ridiculous”.

The legislation cleared the Senate by a vote of 80-17 on Thursday despite concerns among conservative Republican senators.

BBC News – US & Canada

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