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Steven Mnuchin: Hurricane Harvey Aid Should Be Tied to Raising the Debt Ceiling

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that he and President Donald Trump want to tie federal aid for Hurricane Harvey recovery to legislation raising the debt ceiling.

“The president and I believe that it should be tied to the Harvey funding,” Mnuchin told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “Our first priority is to make sure that the state gets money. It is critical. And to do that, we need to make sure we raise the debt limit. Without raising the debt limit, I’m not comfortable that we will get the money that we need this month to Texas to rebuild.”

Trump initially requested $7.9 billion for a down payment on aid for Hurricane Harvey victims, the Associated Press reported Saturday, but no decisions appear to have been reached about whether that payment will be tied to legislation to increase the debt ceiling. Congress must act by Sept. 29 in order to raise the debt ceiling, a more contentious vote than the one for Harvey aid.

Trump tweeted last month that he tried to tie the debt ceiling legislation to a veterans reform bill, but top Congressional Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell had not acquiesced.

Mnuchin’s assertion directly contradicts White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, as well as Congressional Republicans, who do not want to the two issues together.

“I think everyone wants a clean supplemental,” Bossert told reporters. “…I think that will be separate and distinct from the debt ceiling.

And Rep. Mark Meadows, Chairman of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus, told the Washington Post combining the two issues into one piece of legislation was a “terrible idea.”

“The Harvey relief would pass on its own, and to use that as a vehicle to get people to vote for a debt ceiling is not appropriate,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement urging bipartisanship on both issues Sunday afternoon, but did not commit to anything outright.

“Providing aid in the wake of Harvey and raising the debt ceiling are both important issues, and Democrats want to work to do both,” they said. “Given the interplay between all the issues Congress must tackle in September, Democrats and Republicans must discuss all the issues together and come up with a bipartisan consensus.”

Outside of Harvey, Mnuchin told Wallace he was drafting a sanctions package regarding North Korea amid news that the country had detonated a hydrogen bomb as part of its sixth nuclear test.

“I’m going to draft a sanctions package to send to the president for his strong consideration, that anybody that wants to do trade or business with them would be prevented from doing trade or business with us,” Mnuchin explained.

President Trump tweeted Sunday that the United States was considering halting trade deals with any country that does business with North Korea. China, which Trump said in an earlier tweet has been “embarrassed” by North Korea, is the country’s largest trading partner, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. Mnuchin said the U.S. would work with China, but “people need to cut off North Korea economically.”