GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package

GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package
© Greg Nash

Senators are discussing dropping border-related money from a disaster aid package, with Republicans working to get President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE on board with the plan.

GOP Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySessions fights for political life in Alabama runoff House panel advances health bill with B in emergency COVID-19 funds Senate panel to vote on controversial Trump Fed pick Shelton MORE (Ala.) and David Perdue (Ga.) told reporters early Thursday afternoon that they wanted to get Trump on the phone to talk about passing a straight disaster bill, which would drop the humanitarian assistance tied to the border that is a priority of the administration.

The idea has the backing of both Senate Minority Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government MORE (D-N.Y.) and Shelby, the top negotiator for Republican senators, as well a smattering of senators from states that have been impacted by a recent spate of hurricanes, wildfires and storms.

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Shelby said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, approached him about the idea on Wednesday night.

"The more we put on an appropriations bill, that has not to do with the subject matter ... it loads it up and it impedes progress," he said.

Asked if he would support dropping the immigration-related provisions, Shelby added that he was "up to that" because it would make a package just "pure disaster."

Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioChina sanctions Cruz, Rubio, others over Xinjiang legislation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K GOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' MORE (R-Fla.) and Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Is Georgia reaching a tipping point? Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Ga.) both said Thursday that they would support passing a stripped down disaster deal. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate MORE (R-S.D.), when asked about the path forward, indicated that senators are working to get sign off from Trump.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have an answer to that soon,” Thune told reporters about Trump’s support.

If the Senate was able to pass a disaster-only bill, the House – which is poised to leave town Thursday – could pass the legislation by a voice vote.

“The House is considering processing a senate-passed disaster bill today, if it passes the senate today,” a Democratic congressional aide said.

Talks are stalled over how much of the administration's $4.5 billion request for emergency border money to include in a package. The thorny issue includes political landmines like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detention bed funding.

Top members of the Senate and House Appropriations committees had been expected to meet on Wednesday evening to try to iron out the remaining roadblocks, but that meeting was canceled amid a standoff over the immigration and border issues.

Aides said on Thursday morning that negotiations were ongoing, but immigration-related provisions were still a sticking point even as lawmakers only have hours to craft an agreement.

Schumer first floated the idea of dropping the immigration-related language on the Senate floor.

"If we can't come to an agreement this morning on other extraneous issues that the House is discussing, we should set those issues to the side," Schumer said. "We should pass the disaster agreement as is."

The White House's $4.5 billion border request included $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance. About $1.1 billion would go toward operations such as expanding the number of detention beds and providing more investigation resources.

Democrats have agreed to include humanitarian aid as part of an agreement on the disaster package, but a previous offer didn't include the administration's request for more money for ICE detention beds, considered a non-starter for most of the caucus.

Updated: 1:45 p.m.