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Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats

The Senate on Thursday approved a short-term bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling despite frustration among Republicans about the deal that President Trump struck with Democrats.

Senators voted 80-17 on the agreement, which includes an extension of government funding and an increase in the federal borrowing limit through Dec. 8. Those measures are paired with more than $15 billion in hurricane and disaster recovery aid.

Seventeen Republican senators voted against the deal, including Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (S.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Sherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE (Ky.). No Democrats voted against the measure. 

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GOP Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE (Texas), whose state was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, supported the measure but stressed, “I would have much preferred a clean Harvey relief bill.” 

The deal has stoked widespread opposition in the GOP, particularly among conservatives. Though Republicans support helping communities devastated by Hurricane Harvey, many are loath to raise the debt ceiling or fund the government without spending or entitlement reforms.

The package will now bounce back to the House to be passed for a second time before heading to Trump for his signature. House lawmakers easily cleared a stand-alone Harvey recovery bill, on Wednesday, but that margin is expected to shrink now that the Senate has attached the debt-ceiling increase and the government funding measure.

The Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in the House with more than 150 members, came out against the deal on Thursday, calling it irresponsible. The caucus’s opposition means the deal might pass the House mainly with Democratic votes — an unusual dynamic with a Republican in the White House.

Trump appeared to shock GOP leadership during a closed-door White House meeting Wednesday when he sided with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who he later referred to as “Chuck and Nancy” — on a three-month deal. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture MORE (R-Ky.), Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only Cheney at donor retreat says Trump's actions 'a line that cannot be crossed': report MORE (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE were in the meeting and had pushed for longer debt-limit increase, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

But Trump — who also floated doing away with all debt-ceiling votes — agreed to go with the Democratic push to do a three-month extension. The political U-turn came after Democrats offered a similar deal in the morning that didn’t include government funding, which Ryan had dismissed as “ridiculous.”

While few Republican senators were happy with the deal, they said Trump was within his rights to make it.

“I think Sen. McConnell said it’s the president’s prerogative to cut a deal if he wants to. And he apparently thought that was advantageous,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

But Cornyn added he would have preferred to have a longer extension noting that “lifting the debt ceiling is always unpleasant and usually we like to have some offsets or reforms.”

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The surprise agreement left GOP leadership with a tough sale to rank-and-file members and an unenviable December schedule, when they’ll need to wrangle together another agreement to avoid a shutdown and raise the debt ceiling for the second time in three months.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R-S.D.) said to reporters, “I guess we’ll address all the issues again in December. It will be a good holiday for you guys, sticking around.”

Trump administration officials touted the agreement as a move to help clear the decks and make room for tax reform, another key GOP agenda item that has been on hold.

GOP leaders had pointed to government funding, the debt ceiling and help for Harvey victims as their top three priorities for September. The deal cleared by Senate also includes a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire at the end of September.

"We're very happy we have a deal," Mnuchin told Fox Business on Thursday. “The president's priority was to make sure we have the funding for [Hurricane] Harvey and to make sure we raise the debt limit to pay for that.”

Republicans were under intense pressure from outside groups to oppose the funding package.

“The Trump administration and congressional Republicans agreed to link that much-need emergency spending to a suspension of our nation’s debt ceiling, and the administration ultimately agreed with congressional Democrats that the debt ceiling suspension should last less than three months,” Heritage Action said Thursday.

The vote put Senate Republicans in between two politically bad decisions: Defy Trump and party leadership to oppose a deal with hurricane aide, or feel the wrath of conservatives who are already frustrated as Republicans have struggled to make good on campaign promises like repealing ObamaCare.

Conservatives, or Democrats, could have dragged out the Senate’s debate on the agreement until at least Friday. But leadership appeared to avert a rare Friday or Saturday session by allowing Paul and Ben SasseBen SasseTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls NYT's Stephens says Ted Cruz more 'unctuous' than Eddie Haskell GOP worries fiscal conservatism losing its rallying cry MORE (R-Neb.) to get votes on their proposals to either pay for or scale back the bill.

Senators voted to set aside Paul’s push to pay for the $15.25 billion in hurricane recovery funding through cuts to unspent foreign aid money. They similarly rejected Sasse’s amendment to remove the debt and funding deal and pair the hurricane money back to the original House-passed level. 

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Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE wrote the art of the steal by taking hurricane relief hostage to guarantee a December showdown that favors Democratic spending priorities,” Sasse said ahead of the vote. “Republicans should reject Schumer’s deal and instead pass the same clean aid package for Harvey victims that the House passed yesterday.”

The other Republicans who voted against the bill were Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Fox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member MORE (Tenn.), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHillicon Valley: DOJ to review cyber challenges | Gaetz, House Republicans want to end funding for postal service surveillance | TikTok gets new CEO Senators introduce bipartisan bill to protect personal travel data Wyden-Paul bill would close loophole allowing feds to collect private data MORE (Mont.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Lummis adopts 'laser eyes' meme touting Bitcoin MORE (Wyo.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstConservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces Ernst defends Cheney, calls for GOP unity MORE (Iowa), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations MORE (Neb.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Cindy McCain: Arizona election audit is 'ludicrous' The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (Ariz.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (Iowa), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill FBI was aware Giuliani was a target of a Russian influence campaign ahead of 2020 election: report MORE (Wis.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRubio and bipartisan group of senators push to make daylight saving time permanent Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (Oka.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRepublicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report Allowing a racist slur against Tim Scott to trend confirms social media's activist bias Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranBottom line Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (Kan.), Jim RischJim Elroy RischAny reduction in Energy Department's cybersecurity resources a mistake Biden cancels military-funded border wall projects Senate panel greenlights sweeping China policy bill MORE (Idaho), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.) and Sasse.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) who is on trial for bribery and corruption charges, missed the vote, as did GOP Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Fla.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanKerry denies allegations from leaked Iran tapes OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court considers whether US should pay for Guam hazardous waste cleanup | EPA eyes reversal of Trump revocation of California vehicle emissions waiver | Kerry faces calls to step down over leaked Iran tapes Kerry faces calls to step down over leaked Iran tapes  MORE (Alaska).

- This story was updated at 3:15 p.m.