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 McConnellOn The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Senate panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal 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 TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party 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 ShelbyOn The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Senate panel advances first three spending bills Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate 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 panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge 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 SchumerYouth organizations call on Biden to ensure 'bold' climate investments New York Times calls on Cuomo to resign 'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium 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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE understood it, he added, "Well, you got to want to understand it."