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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

The elusive political power of Mexican Americans

Data: Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Mexican Americans make up the nation's largest Latino group, yet they remain politically outshined by more recently arrived Cuban Americans.

Why it matters: The disparities in political power between Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans reflect the racial, historical, geographical and economic differences within Latino cultures in the U.S.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
32 mins ago - Health

The barriers to vaccine passports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccine passports could become available soon to help people resume their livesbut they face numerous scientific, social and political barriers to being accepted.

The big picture: Reliable and accessible proof of vaccine-induced protection from the novel coronavirus could speed international travel and economic reopening, but obstacles to its wide-scale adoption are so great it may never fully arrive.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a series of amendments overnight into early Saturday morning.