Senate to vote on disaster aid bill next week

Senate to vote on disaster aid bill next week
© Greg Nash

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request MORE (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the Senate will vote next week on disaster recovery legislation, even if negotiators haven’t reached a deal.

"We’re going to have a vote next week," McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference.

McConnell added that he hopes the vote will be on a bipartisan agreement President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE would sign. But regardless, he warned that he will force a vote before Congress leaves town for a weeklong Memorial Day recess.

"I hope it's a vote on a deal that has been reached by both sides of the aisle and the White House. If not, we will be having a vote because I'm not going to be sending members of either party home to these storm- and flood-ravaged states without at least some action," he said.

A bill to provide disaster recovery money for a recent spate of storms, wildfires and hurricanes derailed in the Senate in April after Trump criticized Puerto Rico during a closed-door GOP lunch. 

McConnell had previously indicated that he wanted to resolve the issue before lawmakers left for the Memorial Day recess but hadn't specifically threatened to force a vote even if there was not an agreement.

Senators indicated earlier Tuesday that they were closing in on a deal that could tee them up to have a bill to vote on next week.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, held his fingers roughly two inches apart from each other to indicate how close they were to an agreement.

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

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that they were close to a deal.

Senators have been exchanging offers and indicated on Tuesday that they had largely resolved the fight over funding for Puerto Rico, after the initial GOP bill included only $600 million in food stamp aid.

"There are still some outstanding issues, but on Puerto Rico they are moving strongly in our direction," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked what had happened during the negotiations, Schumer added, "They've basically gone along with what Senator Leahy and I asked for for Puerto Rico."

But as of Monday evening, at least two hurdles remained in the talks: an effort to include the White House's $4.5 billion request for emergency border money and a fight over including harbor maintenance funds, which would benefit states such as Shelby's.

Shelby argued on Monday that including the money shouldn't be controversial if it's understood. Pressed if he thought White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE understood it, he added, "Well, you got to want to understand it."