Disaster aid bill stalls amid Puerto Rico fight

The Senate rejected dueling disaster aid proposals on Monday amid a fight with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE over help for Puerto Rico. 

Senators voted 44-49 to end debate on a GOP proposal, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the hurdle. 

That measure includes $13.45 billion in funding to help respond to a recent spate of hurricanes, storms and wildfires, but it ran into a roadblock over funding for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017. 

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The GOP proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (R-Ala.), includes $600 million for food stamp aid in Puerto Rico. 

But Democrats and top Puerto Rican officials have argued that isn't enough and warned they would block the Republican bill as currently drafted. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' Schumer: Idea that 0 unemployment benefit keeps workers away from jobs 'belittles the American people' MORE (D-N.Y.) summed up the Trump administration’s response to Puerto Rico as “cruel” and “nasty.”

“I want to implore my friends on the Republican side to remember that Puerto Rico is still recovering from hurricanes,” Schumer said.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló added in a statement that the Senate proposal “falls short of addressing the majority of our most pressing needs. While the $600 million it provides for Puerto Rico’s Nutritional Assistance Program is vital to the wellbeing of our citizens, it is imperative that our needs be addressed.”

Democrats warned that they would block the bill as currently written. Though Republicans control the Senate, they needed at least seven Democrats to vote for the GOP disaster aid proposal to get it over Monday's procedural hurdle.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced an amendment to the GOP disaster bill to include a handful of additional provisions, including requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to release block grant funding and money to help Puerto Rico repair damaged water systems.

A senior Senate Democratic aide told The Hill last week there were three options that would allow the disaster aid bill to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate: pass the House-passed emergency supplemental, amend the GOP proposal to include priorities from Democrats, or pass a shell bill to allow for the House and Senate to kick the issue to a conference committee.

But Republicans have warned that the House-passed disaster relief bill is a non-starter in the Senate and with the White House, with Trump criticizing the island territory’s handling of previous disaster aid money during a closed-door meeting with GOP senators last week. 
 
After Democrats blocked the GOP offer, Republicans blocked the House-passed disaster aid bill, which was serving as a shell for the Senate's debate.  
 
 
“The House bill has nothing for the Midwest flooding. So it’s a non-starter. For that reason and also because the White House has indicated the president would not support that legislation because of policy decisions made by House Democrats,” McConnell said.
 
McConnell voted against both the GOP disaster proposal and the underlying House bill, a procedural move that paves the way for him to bring back the legislation for a second vote. 
 
Trump also targeted Democrats over the bill, arguing that they should “stop fighting” the GOP proposal. 
 
“Democrats should stop fighting Sen. David Perdue’s disaster relief bill. They are blocking funding and relief for our great farmers and rural America!” he tweeted.
 
Republicans had hoped that voting against disaster aid would be politically damaging enough that enough Democrats would vote for the GOP proposal and kick the fight over Puerto Rico to a conference committee.
 
Several Democratic senators are running for president, and GOP senators warned that the disaster aid bill would benefit early voting states such as Iowa. 
 
“To my colleagues across the aisle who have been spending a lot of time in Iowa lately as presidential candidates, if you vote against moving forward ... how are you going to look Iowans in the eye and justify a vote against moving this relief bill ahead?” Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump puts trade back on 2020 agenda McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (R-Iowa) asked. 
 
Updated at 7:13 p.m.