Lawmakers mull adding border money into disaster aid bill

Lawmakers mull adding border money into disaster aid bill
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig Shelby33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Overnight Defense: Senate GOP coronavirus bill includes .4B for Pentagon | US, Australia focus on China in key meeting MORE (R-Ala.) on Thursday indicated that negotiators are discussing putting humanitarian aid tied to the U.S.-Mexico border into a disaster aid bill.  

Shelby, a key negotiator on the stalled legislation, described Democrats as receptive to including humanitarian aid in the bill as lawmakers try to wrap up the disaster package in time for a vote next week. 

"We're closer than we've ever been," Shelby said. "The Democrats seem to be positive with us on addressing the humanitarian needs at the border. That's good." 

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Shelby added that while they hadn't "put it all together yet," he characterized the willingness to include humanitarian aid tied to the border as a "breakthrough." 

The White House's request for an additional $4.5 billion in emergency border funding had been one of the final remaining hurdles to getting a deal on the stalled disaster aid bill. 

The request includes $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance, which the administration said would be used to increase shelters and care for unaccompanied minors, in addition to processing arrivals. About $1.1 billion would go toward other border operations like expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.   

Shelby sidestepped a question about if the entire $4.5 billion would get included in the disaster aid bill or if it would need to be a smaller amount. But his comments on Thursday mark a shift from earlier this month when he described Democrats as unwilling to merge the border funding and the recovery legislation that is meant to respond to a slate of wildfires, storms and hurricanes. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) has warned that he will force a vote on a disaster aid proposal next week regardless of if there is an agreement, putting pressure on negotiators to find a deal. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (D-N.Y.) appeared optimistic about disaster aid negotiations, telling reporters this week that "we are making progress." 

"We'll have to look at ... their border package very carefully. There are some good parts to it, there are not some good parts to it and we'll have to separate the wheat from the chaff. We have to examine it," Schumer said, asked about including the humanitarian assistance.