Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid

Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid
© Greg Nash

Hurricane-battered Louisiana’s congressional delegation is divided over Democrats’ package to avert a government shutdown, raise the nation’s legal debt limit, and allocate nearly $30 billion in emergency aid responding to Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said he’ll break with his GOP leaders and “probably” vote to pass the package “because my state needs the help,” even as he predicted it would fail in the Senate. The state’s other senator, Republican Bill CassidyBill CassidyTrump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll MORE, hasn’t made up his mind yet about how he’ll vote, and the delegation’s only Democrat, Rep. Troy Carter, will vote yes.

But two Louisiana Republicans in House leadership — Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe 9 Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — US cracks down on tools for foreign hacking House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure MORE, who runs the GOP’s vote-counting operation, and Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon officials get grilling from House House lawmakers press Pentagon over Afghanistan withdrawal House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit MORE, who helps run GOP messaging — are urging their colleagues to vote down the Democratic proposal when it comes to the floor later Tuesday. They are complaining that President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE and the Democrats are spending too much, imposing higher taxes and driving up inflation through their separate $3.5 trillion social safety net package.

ADVERTISEMENT

“If you notice the debt that [Democrats have] incurred just this year alone to fund things like bailing out failed states, paying people not to work and then ultimately now to pass this [$5 trillion-plus] tax-and-spend bill … we're not the only ones against it. Most American people don't want this level of spending and taxes that are going to increase inflation even higher,” Scalise told reporters after huddling with House Republicans. 

“Democrats want to bring bad policies like that, they're the ones that are going to have to answer for it,” Scalise added. “They shouldn't try to tie it, by the way, to a bill that funds basic needs of government, and the Senate made it clear they're not going to go for this.” 

Asked by The Hill if he supports the $28.6 billion figure that Democrats have attached to the government funding bill and debt ceiling package, Scalise would say only that he wanted the disaster aid voted on separately.  

“We wanted that to be a stand-alone bill, and I think in the end it will be separated from this package before it's all said and done, I think by the end of next week,” Scalise said. “You will see that removed from this debt ceiling increase bill. Again, they don't have the votes in the Senate to tie all this to a single package, so this is early in this process, and we’ll ultimately get another chance to vote on that when it comes back from the Senate.”

By linking the funding bill and debt ceiling issue, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.) are daring Senate Republicans to oppose the package and risk twin disasters: a default on nation’s debt and a federal shutdown in the middle of a global pandemic.

But by tying the disaster relief to the package, Democrats also have put Republicans from storm-ravaged states such as Kennedy, Cassidy, Scalise and Johnson in a tough bind. The top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyBlack Hawk pilot shot down in Somalia jumps into Alabama Senate race Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans MORE of Alabama, said he will also vote no on the package because it includes the debt hike, even though his state was also hit hard by Hurricane Ida.

“I support advancing a continuing resolution with much-needed disaster relief and targeted Afghan assistance,” Shelby said. “But I will not support a package that raises the debt limit.”