Bipartisan shift on Harvey aid emerging in Congress

With parts of Texas and Louisiana underwater, shelters overflowing and the search for survivors still underway, the two parties appear inclined to cooperate with each other on at least the first steps toward an emergency response that could eventually top $100 billion.

WASHINGTON — When Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday after a monthlong summer recess, Americans may witness something rare and strange on Capitol Hill: a glimmer, ever so faint, of bipartisanship.

After eight months of legislative dysfunction and gridlock, Hurricane Harvey appears to have brought Republicans and Democrats together around the most basic of congressional duties: aiding Americans whose lives and homes have been wrecked by a natural disaster and keeping the government open.

With parts of Texas and Louisiana underwater, shelters overflowing and the search for survivors still underway, the two parties appear inclined to cooperate with each other on at least the first steps toward an emergency response that could eventually top $100 billion. The White House forwarded an initial $7.85 billion request Friday night.

President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the government over funding for a border wall, which dominated the discussion in Washington before the storm hit, is now “off the table,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. The debate over the wall, and how to pay for it, will almost certainly be delayed, as Congress wrestles, instead, with contentious must-pass measures to fund the federal government and raise the statutory borrowing limit.

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“We’re going to spend time and energy building up flood walls,” said Jim Dyer, a Washington lobbyist and Republican who previously served as the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. “We’re not going to be building up border walls.”

That is not to say Congress will be free of the usual fights over federal spending. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that he and Trump want the hurricane aid tied to a measure increasing the debt limit. That contradicts a demand by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who warned in an interview with The Washington Post last week that leaders should not try to attach the aid package to the debt-limit increase.

If lawmakers can reach détente on fiscal matters, the big question is whether that spirit…

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