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 ShelbyOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Conservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan 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.

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Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight 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 TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address 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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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."