Ryan slams Dem leaders over ‘disgraceful’ debt plan

Greg Nash

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday slammed the top House and Senate Democratic leaders, calling their proposal to tie Hurricane Harvey aid to a three-month extension to the debt ceiling “ridiculous and disgraceful.”

“We’ve got all this devastation in Texas; we’ve got another unprecedented hurricane about to hit Florida. And they want to play politics with the debt ceiling?” an exasperated Ryan asked during a news conference.

“I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need, [so we can] respond to these hurricanes so that we don’t strand them.” 

{mosads}The White House and GOP leaders want the two issues to be paired but are calling for a much longer extension of the debt limit, perhaps more than one year.

A much shorter extension could risk $8 billion in aid Congress plans to send to FEMA to help thousands of Harvey victims who lost their homes and businesses in the storm and subsequent flooding, Ryan argued. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said earlier Wednesday they are prepared to supply Democratic votes to help GOP leaders pass a package that includes Harvey relief plus a three-month debt-limit extension.

That strategy could give Democrats more leverage. It would set up another fight over raising the debt ceiling right before Christmas, when the GOP-led Congress will also need to pass a bill to avert a government shutdown.

“What the [Democratic] leaders have proposed is unworkable, and it could put in jeopardy the kind of hurricane response we need to have,” the Speaker said. “To play politics with the debt ceiling like Schumer and Pelosi are apparently doing, I don’t think is a good idea.”

The House later Wednesday is expected to pass a standalone Harvey aid bill. The Senate plans to attach debt ceiling legislation to the aid bill and ship it back to the House by the end of the week.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who surveyed the damage in the Houston area this week, told rank-and-file Republicans that the House will stay as a long as it takes to pass the Harvey aid package, even if it means working into the weekend.

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