Three Republicans vote against Harvey aid package

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Nearly all House members of both parties voted to pass a $7.85 billion package to help victims of Hurricane Harvey on Wednesday — save for three conservative GOP lawmakers.

Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) were the only lawmakers to oppose the aid in the 419-3 vote.

Minutes before the vote, Amash tweeted that funding for the disaster aid should be offset instead of being added to the deficit.

{mosads}“Congress should provide disaster relief funding, and we should pay for it now instead of billing our children and grandchildren for it,” Amash wrote on Twitter.

Massie similarly explained he believes the aid should have been paid for.

“With $20 trillion dollars of debt, and in the absence of a budget to guide spending, I believe that unscheduled spending should be offset by equal cuts elsewhere. This bill recklessly increases the national debt because it contains no spending offsets,” Massie said in a statement.

Both Amash and Massie also opposed approving aid for Hurricane Sandy in 2013, along with all but 49 of their fellow House Republicans.

Biggs, a freshman representative, was not yet serving in the House during the Sandy vote. He and Amash are both members of the House Freedom Caucus, though most of the far-right group’s members did vote for the Harvey aid on Wednesday.

Biggs said he opposed the aid measure because of the legislative vehicle used for its passage. 

The House attached the disaster relief to a bill that updates practices for U.S. assistance to promote basic education in developing countries. Wednesday’s vote concurs with Senate changes made to the bill, which has passed both chambers by voice vote. 

Biggs said that Congress should not include extraneous measures with emergency items, like help for hurricane victims.

“Shortly before today’s vote, with little time to read the final version of the package, the House attached hurricane relief funding to the READ Act, a bill that expands the size of government and ties foreign assistance to new education programs in developing countries. I firmly disagree with attaching disaster relief funding to a piece of legislation that needlessly expends taxpayer dollars to support international education,” Biggs said in a statement. 

“The House also failed to detail how we will pay for the relief but managed to include an international education program,” the Arizona Republican added.

The House may have to vote again in the coming days to combine the disaster relief money with a debt limit increase.

That could result in more defections from GOP lawmakers, many of whom support helping Harvey victims but don’t want to raise the debt limit without any spending reforms.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that the costs of disaster relief may push up the deadline for the debt limit, which was originally expected to be reached on Sept. 29.

Costs from Hurricane Irma, which is expected to hit Florida in the coming days, could also move up the debt limit deadline, further adding to the urgency.

– This story was updated at 4:16 p.m.

Tags Justin Amash Steven Mnuchin
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