McConnell eyes end-of-month deadline as disaster aid hits new 'obstacles'
© Greg Nash
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours 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 ShelbySenate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate GOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' MORE (R-Ala.)], [Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyVermont high school girls' soccer team penalized for removing jerseys to reveal #EqualPay shirts Democrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate 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 SchumerTurkey says soldier killed despite cease-fire in Syria Schumer calls for FDA to probe reports of contaminated baby food How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse 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.