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 ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes 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 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.) 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.