HFC Chairman Says Most Members Won’t Support Bill Combining Harvey Relief To Debt Ceiling

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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House Freedom Caucus (HFC) Chairman Mark Meadows said Tuesday that the powerful conservative group has not yet taken an official position on whether members would vote in favor of a bill combining the debt ceiling with a relief package for Hurricane Harvey recovery, but he is confidant wouldn’t support the proposal.

House conservatives have long advocated for spending cuts to be attached to legislation raising the nation’s borrowing limit, conflicting with the administration’s push for a clean debt ceiling bill. Critics argue linking the two issues politicizes disaster relief as a Harvey aide package would easily pass on its own.

“I think it’s bad policy that ultimately leaves the taxpayer holding the bag,” South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford told reporters after the HFC meeting Tuesday night.

While the lower chamber is slated to vote on a stand-alone $7.9 billion relief bill Wednesday, the Senate is expected to attach language on the debt ceiling before sending it back to the House.

“It’s very clear that the majority of our members feel like attaching the debt ceiling, a clean debt ceiling, without structural reforms to Harvey relief is not something that they would support,” Meadows told reporters.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said the group is “overwhelmingly supportive” of raising the ceiling but feels it’s critical they “address the underlying problem — namely the $20 trillion debt.”

The HFC took an official position to support the resurrection of the “Cut, cap and balance” plan, previously put forth by Jordan, which would place enforceable caps as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product.

“We would raise, we would actually raise the debt ceiling as a percentage of GDP, which gives a vehicle a modest conservative spending vehicle for the debt ceiling,” Meadows said. “But it also does another thing — you take the need for debt ceiling increases going forward off the table. As long as you control your spending, you will never have to do that because it goes up as a percentage of GDP.”

Meadows said all of the group’s members “acknowledge the fact that it will probably pass” with the support of Democrats, but he continues to articulate that there is an alternative that falls in line with the fiscally responsible principles that got Republicans elected.

“We’ve never done a clean debt ceiling under any president whether they’ve been Republican or Democrat,” he continued. “We didn’t do a debt ceiling under President Obama — why should we start under President Trump?”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed Tuesday the lower chamber would take up a bill combining the debt ceiling and Harvey relief if it passed the Senate.

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