WASHINGTON (CN) – White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said President Donald Trump’s decision to side with Democrats in combining relief money for Hurricane Harvey with a bill to raise the debt limit and fund the government could be a sign of greater bipartisanship in the future.
“I think he’s going to continue to work with whoever is interested in moving the ball forward to help the American people,” Sanders said at a White House press briefing.
Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed earlier this week to combine the $15 billion Harvey relief package with a measure to fund the government for three months and raise the debt ceiling for the same amount of time, surprising and frustrating conservatives on Capitol Hill who wanted to see the provisions handled independently of one another.
The Senate passed the bill on Thursday, with the House doing the same on Friday, but 107 Republicans voted against the bill across both chambers of Congress. Among the defections were four Republican representatives from Texas, the state hit hardest by the hurricane.
Rep. Joe Barton, one of the Texas Republicans who voted against the measure on Friday, noted that he voted for a standalone emergency spending bill for Harvey relief earlier in the week, but could not support it once the Senate put Trump, Schumer and Pelosi’s deal into action.
“Today, when the hurricane relief-debt ceiling bill came back from the Senate, I voted no,” Barton said in a statement. “I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term and eliminate them in the long term. the money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren. We have yet again missed an opportunity for substantial reforms and reduced spending.”
The deal Trump struck with Schumer and Pelosi highlights a gap between Republicans on Capitol Hill and their president in the White House who has not followed GOP orthodoxy on some issues. Trump earlier this week even suggested he would support the idea of eliminating the debt ceiling altogether, another product of a conversation with Schumer that would not be popular with a wide band of Republican lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., downplayed the distance between the president and Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, saying in a speech on the Senate floor that his caucus agreed with Trump that Congress should quickly pass Harvey relief and the short-term funding and debt ceiling bills.
“These are the president’s immediate priorities, these are my immediate priorities, and they are critically important to establishing certainty and stability as our country continues to recover from a record-setting storm and prepare for yet another.”
But Trump again focused the tension in a Friday morning tweet thread, when he needled Republicans for not being able to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and encouraged McConnell to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate, a move McConnell has resolutely stated will not happen.
“Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen,” Trump tweeted. “Even worse, the Senate Filibuster Rule will never allow the Republicans to pass even great legislation. 8 Dems control – will rarely get 60 (vs. 51) votes. It is a Repub Death Wish!”