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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

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.

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NFL to fine unvaccinated players $14K for violating COVID-19 protocols

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a facemask while preparing for the start of Super Bowl LV. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The NFL will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 if they violate COVID-19 protocols this season, ESPN reports.

The big picture: The rule change comes two days after the NFL announced that postponed games due to coronavirus outbreaks among unvaccinated players or staffers will not be rescheduled and teams responsible for delays will automatically forfeit.