The Senate is aiming for a vote next week on disaster aid, according to Senate aides.
A vote on the multibillion-dollar aid package, which has yet to be finalized, would make good on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s calls for the chamber to pass the deal by the Memorial Day recess.
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Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday that both sides were still talking, and he expressed cautious optimism that a deal could be reached by next week.
“Next week is the week before a big break,” Shelby said. “I can’t predict what will happen, but I think something is either going to hit the floor dealing with that, or maybe we’ll all come to an agreement.”
He added that “right now it seems like we’re trying to come together” and that “generally something happens” the week before Memorial Day recess.
Another Republican senator reiterated on Monday that McConnell would like to have a vote before the recess.
Negotiations around disaster aid have hit several snags, most notably over how much money should be allocated to Puerto Rico, which was hit by two hurricanes in 2017. President Donald Trump has complained to Republican senators that the island territory was getting too much money, complicating negotiations. Compounding the challenge is a recent White House request for $4.5 billion in emergency aid to handle an influx of immigrants at the southern border.
McConnell on Monday urged Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to move forward on disaster aid negotiations and “identify our common ground and produce an outcome for the American people.”
“Disaster assistance should not be a partisan issue — it’s been over half a year since many of these disasters hit,” he said.
The House passed another multibillion-dollar disaster aid package on Friday, with 34 Republican lawmakers joining Democrats to support the deal.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said on Monday that the bipartisan vote in the House was a positive sign for negotiations.
“It’s encouraging that Republicans are beginning to realize that Puerto Rico needs help, or at least that they have to be part of the aid package,” Schumer said. “ I hope those green shoots soon bear fruit and we can send something to the president’s desk and give the relief to all of those who need it.”
Caitlin Emma and James Arkin contributed to this report.