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 TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE on board with the plan.

GOP Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' 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 LeahyNegotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break 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 RubioOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Ex-Obama counterterrorism official: Huawei could pose security threat to international intelligence community The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate MORE (R-Fla.) and Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump MORE (R-Ga.) both said Thursday that they would support passing a stripped down disaster deal. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneHillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns GOP senators divided over approach to election security McSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' 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.