Senators closing in on disaster aid deal

Senators closing in on disaster aid deal
© Stefani Reynolds

Senators on Tuesday signaled they are closing in on a deal to break the weeks-long stalemate on disaster aid.

Sen. 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.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, indicated negotiators were making progress. Asked how far they were from an agreement, Shelby held his fingers a couple of inches apart.

“It’s closer than I think it’s been ... in weeks,” he told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that they were close to a deal.

The development comes as negotiators have struggled for weeks amid multiple political and policy hurdles.

The Senate’s disaster relief bill fell apart in April after President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE knocked Puerto Rico’s handling of previous disaster recovery money.

But other challenges have emerged, including a fight with the White House over port funding, which is important to Shelby, as well as talk about adding in the administration's request for $4.5 billion in emergency border funding.

Shelby indicated on Tuesday that some issues remain unresolved. As of Monday evening, they had not resolved the port fight or whether to include the border money.

Senators want to pass a disaster aid package before they leave Washington for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. The House passed a $17.2 billion supplemental disaster relief bill on Friday in a 257-150 vote that included 34 Republicans.

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.) on Tuesday appeared optimistic about the prospects for a deal.

“I’m encouraged that Republicans have moved in our direction when it comes to disaster in Puerto Rico," he said. "I hope that we can find agreement soon."