Crunch time for Senate disaster aid talks
© Greg Nash
Senators are entering a crucial stretch as they try to break the logjam on a stalled disaster recovery bill before leaving next week for the Memorial Day recess. 
 
 
Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? In-space refueling vs heavy lift? NASA and SpaceX choose both Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Ala.), who has been a key figure in the Senate negotiations, said Monday both sides were continuing to negotiate. 
 
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"Next week is the week before a big break — Memorial Day break. I can't predict what will happen, but I think either something's going to hit the floor dealing with that … or maybe we'll all come to an agreement," he told reporters. 
 
Shelby added that "next week will be the last week before Memorial Day break. Generally something happens, generally." 
 
The Senate's disaster aid bill derailed in April after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE criticized Puerto Rico's handling of previous recovery spending during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans. 
 
The two sides have swapped offers since then, but have yet to clinch a deal with Shelby indicating last week that one sticking point was the White House, including chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump's latest plan to undermine Social Security Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report MORE, over a push to include harbor maintenance funds. 
 
Shelby argued on Monday that including the money, which would benefit ports in his home state, shouldn't be controversial if it's understood. Pressed if he thought Mulvaney understood it, he added "well you got to want to understand it." 
 
In addition to Puerto Rico and the port funding, McConnell is trying to get a hemp provision included in the bill though Shelby indicated on Monday that he hadn't heard anything about that being a sticking point. There's also been talk of trying to drop in the administration's request for $4.5 billion in emergency border spending, which would likely be a dead end with Democrats. 
 
McConnell name-dropped Shelby on the Senate floor Monday for his work on the issue and urged both sides to quickly reach an agreement. 
 
"I would urge Democrats and Republicans in the House as well as the Senate to identify our common ground and produce an outcome for the American people. They've been waiting entirely too long," McConnell said. 

The House passed a $17.2 billion supplemental disaster relief package on Friday in a 257-150 vote that included 34 Republicans.

 
"I hope those green shoots soon bear fruit and we can send something to the president’s desk and give the relief to all of those who need it — in California and Texas and Iowa and Nebraska and Alabama and Florida and Puerto Rico," he said.