Democrats agree to humanitarian aid for border as part of disaster package

Democrats agree to humanitarian aid for border as part of disaster package
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Congressional Democrats are offering to include billions in humanitarian assistance tied to the U.S.-Mexico border in a disaster aid package as negotiators inch closer to a deal.

A House Democratic aide said they've given Republicans "a thoughtful offer" that would include part of the administration's request for emergency border funding, including the White House's push for humanitarian assistance.  

"Democrats recognize that there are serious humanitarian needs at the border," the aide said. "We gave Congressional Republicans a thoughtful offer to address those needs."

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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.  

The aide added that the new offer from Democrats excludes parts of the administration's request that they view as "non-starters," including request for increasing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds. 

"Democrats refuse to give this administration a blank check, which is why we are insisting on oversight provisions that will protect the dignity and rights of migrants," the aide added. 

The new offer from Democrats come as negotiators are trying to reach a deal on the stalled disaster aid package — which was meant to respond to a spate of storms, wildfires and hurricanes — before lawmakers leave town next week for the Memorial Day recess.  

The Senate's disaster aid bill derailed after President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE criticized Puerto Rico's handling of previous recovery spending during a closed-door lunch with Republicans earlier this year. 

Lawmakers appear to have broken the stalemate on Puerto Rico, but the administration's emergency border money and harbor maintenance funding, which is important to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters Contractors fight for pay from last shutdown — and the next one Trump signs stopgap measure, funding government through November MORE (R-Ala.), remained as sticking points. 

Shelby indicated earlier Thursday that Democrats willing to include humanitarian assistance in the disaster package, saying that the talks had reached a "break through."  

"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."

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. 

Democrats had hinted this week that they were open to including humanitarian assistance. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' 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.