Finance

Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid

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 Kennedy (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 Cassidy, 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 Scalise, who runs the GOP’s vote-counting operation, and Rep. Mike Johnson, 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 Biden and the Democrats are spending too much, imposing higher taxes and driving up inflation through their separate $3.5 trillion social safety net package.

“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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (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 Shelby 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.”

Tags Bill Cassidy Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer debt hike Debt limit government funding Hurricane Ida Ida Joe Biden John Kennedy Louisiana Mike Johnson Nancy Pelosi Richard Shelby Steve Scalise storm relief
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