U.S. House approves $8B in initial Hurricane Harvey relief

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Hurricane Harvey aid package passes in the House

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) on Democrats and Republicans working together to pass Hurricane Harvey aid.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved roughly $8 billion in initial emergency aid for relief and rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, which tore into Texas on Aug. 25.

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The House-passed measure, which provides $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $450 million for the Small Business Administration, will now go to the Senate. Barring unexpected setbacks, the aid measure is expected to be sent to the White House by the end of the week.

After a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and congressional leaders from both parties, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that they had reached a deal to tie the Harvey aid to short-term measures to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 15.

"Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us," Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had favored linking the Harvey aid to a measure to raise the debt ceiling, or the federal government’s borrowing limit, through the 2018 midterm elections, aides said. But many conservative Republicans oppose tying Harvey aid to a debt ceiling measure without related reforms.

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Republicans at the White House meeting had pressed to raise the debt ceiling for a longer period of time but Trump sided with Democrats, who said earlier on Wednesday they would back a three-month extension, an individual briefed on the meeting said.

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If passed, the deal would avoid a shutdown of the U.S. government by using a three-month, short-term patch to fund the government at current levels through Dec. 15 while Congress works out a longer-term spending package for fiscal year 2018. 

(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Tom Brown)

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