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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval 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 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 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 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.), 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 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.

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 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.) 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 MulvaneyTrump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau MORE understood it, he added, "Well, you got to want to understand it."