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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 takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote 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 TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE would sign. But regardless, he warned that he will force a vote before Congress leaves town for a weeklong Memorial Day recess.

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"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 ShelbyCBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief Black Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers 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.

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

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama First Black secretary of Senate sworn in 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 SchumerChuck SchumerBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor 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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief MORE understood it, he added, "Well, you got to want to understand it."