WASHINGTON — In swamping large swaths of Texas and Louisiana, Hurricane Harvey also forged a new reality for President Trump and the Republicans governing Washington.
Gone are the confrontational talk of a government shutdown and the brinkmanship over the debt limit. Instead, both Mr. Trump and his putative allies in Congress — many of them professed fiscal hawks — are promising an outpouring of federal aid to begin a recovery and rebuilding effort that will last for years and require tens of billions of dollars, if not substantially more, from Washington.
The storm has utterly transformed the federal fiscal picture.
“This is going to change the whole dynamic for September and, quite frankly, for the Republican establishment for the remainder of the 115th Congress,” said G. William Hoagland, a longtime chief budget adviser to Senate Republicans who is now a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “The truth of the matter is, they don’t need money to build a wall in Texas, but to rebuild the shoreline in Texas.”
Facing a difficult September, deeply divided over spending and what to do about the debt limit, Mr. Trump and congressional leaders may find that a devastating storm has provided them the common cause that has proved so elusive after their failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Trump is eager to be seen as a competent manager in his first big test in a natural disaster, and a shutdown could shatter that image. Lawmakers want to deliver for the Texas and Louisiana communities pounded by Harvey, a region that is not only a driver of the national economy but a center of Republican strength.
At the same time, a huge relief program tacked on to the federal deficit could undermine the claim by the president and his party that they are stewards of a leaner, more efficient federal bureaucracy.
The magnitude of the storm threatens to overwhelm that agenda as well as relegate to the background Mr. Trump’s demands for a border wall. Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, has already said that members of his group will not insist, for now, on funding it.
And it may make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to follow through on his promises of a broad crackdown on illegal immigration.
The altered landscape is going to force conservative lawmakers who have balked at tabs for past storm relief to swallow hard and rally behind a long-term recovery program. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, two Texas Republicans who opposed…