McConnell eyes end-of-month deadline as disaster aid hits new 'obstacles'
© Greg Nash
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he wants the Senate to pass a disaster recovery deal before the Memorial Day recess, even as the stalemated legislation appeared to be hitting new "obstacles." 
 
"We need to get this done. We need to pass it out of the Senate before the Memorial Day recess. That is my hope, that [Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyIn-space refueling vs heavy lift? NASA and SpaceX choose both Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects MORE (R-Ala.)], [Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Vt.], the administration and others will be able to come together and deal with this disaster like we have others. It's no excuse to politicize this situation," McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference. 
 
McConnell's timeline would give lawmakers and the White House less than three weeks to work out an agreement on recovery assistance from a recent spate of storms, wildfires and hurricanes. 
 
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His comments come as last week's bipartisan optimism for a deal on the stalled disaster aid bill appeared to fade on Tuesday, Shelby, one of the key negotiators, telling reporters that the negotiations were running into "obstacles."
 
"It's got some obstacles. Some of them are coming from the White House, some coming from the Democrats," Shelby said.
 
Shelby indicated that one hurdle is a push to merge Trump's $4.5 billion request for emergency funding for the border with the disaster aid bill. Democrats, he warned, have signaled that it's "something … they aren't interested in at all." 
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) didn't rule out supporting Trump's request but hinted that the president could be complicating the chances of passing the recovery legislation if he insists on looping it in with the disaster bill. 
 
"Well, we have to see what exactly he wants. But you know, again, he complicated up the disaster bill once. Maybe now he's doing it twice. That's what it seems to be," Schumer told reporters. 
 
The disaster aid package fell apart in the Senate earlier this year after Trump criticized Puerto Rico’s handling of previous disaster aid money during a closed-door meeting with GOP senators.
 
The GOP proposal included $600 million for food stamp aid in Puerto Rico. Democrats wanted to amend it to include additional provisions such as requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to release block grant funding and adding money to help Puerto Rico repair damaged water systems.
 
Both sides appeared to be making progress until this weekend as they swapped offers, including a GOP offer to include $300 million in HUD rebuilding assistance in addition to the food stamp funding. 
 
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) characterized himself as still hopeful that Congress would be able to strike a deal but acknowledged negotiators had hit "a little hiccup" over the weekend.