Dems accused of seeking revenge for 2013 vote on hurricane relief

GOP senators are accusing Democrats of exacting revenge for a Senate vote that occurred six years ago.

Republicans say their colleagues across the aisle are holding up a disaster relief bill that would provide assistance to Midwest and Southern states because of GOP opposition to aid for Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE’s (D) home state of New York after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid Klobuchar: Trump plan doesn't deal with 'comprehensive immigration issue' Pence, McConnell eulogize Sen. Richard Lugar MORE (R-Ga.) on Tuesday told reporters that Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGraham says Bolton briefed him on Iran, tells Trump to 'stand firm' Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible MORE (Vt.), the lead Democratic negotiator for the pending relief legislation, brought up the 2013 vote during a recent, contentious conversation.

“The senator from Vermont called me last Friday and said, ‘I want to show something,’ so he sent over this two-page spread on that vote. Of the 37 ‘no’ votes, I was one of them,” Isakson said when asked whether Democrats are stalling disaster relief for Georgia and other GOP states as a form of political payback for opposing prior legislation that also provided assistance to New Jersey and Connecticut.

“We had a few words,” Isakson added.

The conversation is proof that the current impasse over disaster relief is a form of political payback, according to Republicans.

“That dynamic is at least a part of the calculation on the part of the Democrats,” Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: Congress, White House aim to include debt limit increase in spending deal | McConnell optimistic budget deal near | Carson defends HUD eviction plan | Senate votes to undo tax hike on Gold Star families Congress, White House indicate debt limit increase will be part of spending deal Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group MORE (R-S.D.) said when asked about Isakson’s allegations.

The Georgia lawmaker was one of 36 Republican senators who voted against a $51 billion package for Sandy relief. GOP Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAnother VPOTUS tries for POTUS: What does history tell us? Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress MORE (Fla.) and Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerCongress readies for battle over nuclear policy Trump's pursuit of infrastructure deal hits GOP roadblock Why America needs the ability to track enemy missiles from space MORE (Neb.) were among those three dozen senators, and both of their states would benefit from the stalled relief bill.

Isakson said he voted against the 2013 measure because Democrats from the Northeast were trying to load the bill up with unrelated funding.

“It’s Sandy payback,” said a senior Senate Republican on Tuesday, echoing accusations by other Senate GOP sources.

A spokesman for Leahy declined to comment on what he called “insinuation and guesswork.”

Isakson and Fischer have said legislative action is needed on the current bill before Congress leaves town for a two-week recess at the end of this week.

He said pecan farmers are going to lose their farms or go into serious debt if they don’t get relief soon.

“If we go past the middle of this month, it’s over,” Isakson warned last week.

Leahy’s spokesman noted that Republicans objected last week to an amendment proposed by Schumer and Leahy that would have funded all of Georgia’s disaster relief request.

The Schumer-Leahy amendment would have given $2.5 billion in new funding to communities in the Midwest and Southeast, including $83 million in community development block grants to Florida and $5.4 million in such grants to Georgia.

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Republicans also rejected an amendment offered by Leahy that would have provided aid for natural disasters that occurred this year.

Schumer said he remembers the GOP colleagues who voted against disaster relief for New York, but emphasized that all areas of the country should be treated equally, including Puerto Rico, which would receive relief under the pending measure.

“Some of our Republican friends [are] desperate for disaster aid when it’s their states and don’t help other states. Democrats have not done that. We believe we all ought to pull together and help American citizens, wherever they are,” he said.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide denied that Democrats are holding up the bill because of Sandy, which led to billions of dollars in damage in Northeastern coastal communities.

The aide said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending MORE (R-Ala.) opposes appropriating more disaster relief for Puerto Rico because President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE railed against sending more federal aid to the territory during a lunch meeting with Republicans two weeks ago.

A senior Democratic aide said Shelby initially agreed to provide more disaster funding for Puerto Rico in exchange for more money for GOP-represented states in the Midwest and Southeast, but then did a U-turn after Trump accused Puerto Rico of using up too many federal resources.

Schumer on Monday blamed Trump for turning Republicans against the disaster relief package by making Puerto Rico aid a political football.

“President Trump went to a Tuesday lunch, banged his fist on the table — figuratively, I suppose — and said, ‘I don’t think any aid should go to Puerto Rico,’ ” Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday.

“Did our Republican friends, especially those from states with disasters and who needed the aid, say, ‘No, no, we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to let you divide us?’ No, they went along with it, hurting their states,” he said.

Senate Republicans and Democrats exchanged offers over the weekend but failed to reach a breakthrough.

Shelby, the lead Republican negotiator, announced on Tuesday the negotiations had stalled because Democrats rejected what he called a “serious” and “substantial” offer.

He declined to discuss the details of his proposal but said Democrats “categorically said no.”

“They want a lot more money, so we’re at a standoff right now,” he said.

Isakson said Republicans received an offer from Democrats on Sunday that “had some things in it that were good,” but declined to discuss any of its details.

He said it would be “tough” to get a deal before Friday but expressed hope that an agreement would be “possible.”

A senior Democratic aide said Republicans could break through the impasse by agreeing to a shell bill stripped of controversial provisions, setting up a Senate-House legislative conference where negotiators would hopefully hash out a final deal.