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 McConnellO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Cicilline on Trump investigations versus legislation: 'We have to do both' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy 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 ShelbyCongress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House to vote on measure keeping government open until Nov. 21 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 LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections 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 SchumerSinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall Pelosi: 'People are dying' because McConnell won't bring up gun legislation 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 MulvaneyNOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA MORE understood it, he added, "Well, you got to want to understand it."