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John Ashbery / AP

Republican leaders plan to use the emergency Hurricane Harvey aid to squeeze another must-pass item through Congress: the debt ceiling.

Sources with direct knowledge of the planning tell me the current strategy is for the House to pass a "clean" bill this week that funds the White House's request for $7.85 billion for the first phase of recovery from the hurricane.

What happens next— per multiple sources with direct knowledge — is that when the bill reaches the Senate, Republican leaders will attach a debt limit raise before sending it back to the House. (Attaching a debt ceiling raise is less controversial in the Senate than it is in the House, which has more conservative members. What I've described is Republican leadership's current thinking, as of Sunday afternoon... it could still change.)

Why this matters: Hurricane Harvey has opened a path to get one of the most controversial items off Republican leaders's backs. Conservative members won't vote to raise the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts, and Mark Meadows, chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, has already said he thinks it's wrong to use hurricane funding to dodge this thorny issue.

  • By linking the debt ceiling to hurricane aid, leadership would put the Freedom Caucus in the excruciating position of having to vote against emergency aid for Texas's worst natural disaster.
  • A source with knowledge of the Freedom Caucus's plans tells me the group won't have a unified position on the Harvey/debt ceiling question until after they meet on Tuesday night.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
10 hours ago - Sports

Novak Djokovic loses Australian visa appeal

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Tennis star Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening, facing a three-year visa ban after an appeals court in the country revoked his visa.

Driving the news: Djokovic will not be able to defend his Australian Open title when the tournament starts in Melbourne. The World No. 1 is looking to break a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam men's singles titles.