Daily Report for Executives provides in-depth coverage of unfolding legislative, regulatory, and judicial news from the nation’s capital, the states, and around the world. This daily news service...
Pressure to increase the $36.5 billion House-passed disaster aid package appears to be lessening in the Senate, where some spending proposals appear to be on hold as a fight over the fiscal 2018 budget dominates the chamber.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats’ proposals to increase the amount of money in the bill to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now are on the back burner. He said they are likely instead to make their push for extra funds in a third supplemental spending request that President Donald Trump is expected to send to Capitol Hill in a few weeks.
“We did get some good money for Puerto Rico and the [U.S.] Virgin Islands and we got a loan program, which they need,” Schumer said. “We certainly are going to try to get more in a third supplemental, which is needed. I don’t know if we’re going to renegotiate this one.”
Senators are under pressure to pass the disaster aid package (H. Res. 569) soon to shore up the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Flood Insurance Program. Besides providing initial relief for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the $36.5 billion bill has more hurricane recovery funds for Texas and Florida and money for western states to combat fires.
But Schumer’s comments are at odds with those of Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has criticized the House package for not coming close to what his home state and others need for their recovery. The Texas congressional delegation requested another $18 billion for their state to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Cornyn told reporters he’s not ready to stop trying to increase spending in the package—even if it means giving Democrats more of what they want in the short term.
“We’re still working on this, and we may be able to find a way to make this attractive to Schumer,” Cornyn said after meeting with lawmakers in his office.
Schumer and Cornyn spoke as the Senate geared up for a vote-a-rama on the budget resolution, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) views as essential to laying the groundwork for a major tax bill this fall.
McConnell continued to keep his own comments on the new disaster aid package to a minimum while the Senate tackles the budget. The package includes an influx of $18.7 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund and $16 billion to forgive debt and allow the NFIP to process claims. It also carries $576.5 million for fighting wildfires.
Work on the budget is expected to last well into the evening of Oct. 19, after which some Senate lawmakers and aides said there is a possibility the chamber will turn to the disaster package.
That schedule suggests McConnell could quickly bring up the disaster package after a long evening session and pass it quickly without changes. But Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said he doubts the aid package will be brought up before the week of Oct. 23.
“I think we’re going to have a handful of votes on [budget] vote-a-rama and be gone,” Durbin said, adding that there is less urgency to increase the funding in the current legislation.
“We have two more disaster packages coming,” Durbin said, referring to a supplemental the White House is preparing for more long-term recovery and other funds that are expected to be added to a year-end omnibus appropriations bill.
Cornyn acknowledged that there is little time to nail down a deal.
"[McConnell] hasn’t set any deadlines, but we know we have to act with some dispatch,” Cornyn told reporters.
Florida, Puerto Rico, and Texas also made separate requests to Congress for extra money to be included in the current package. Combined, the amounts total about $50 billion.
But attention also appears to be shifting to the third supplemental request that Trump is expected to make soon. Trump is expected to meet Oct. 19 with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to discuss recovery and rebuilding, the White House said.
“We will continue working hand-in-hand with local leaders in all areas of our country that have been impacted by several natural disasters in recent months,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
The White House announced separately that Trump had signed into law a bill (H.R. 1117) requiring FEMA to submit a report to Congress on plans to improve the administration of assistance during an emergency or disaster.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Ognanovich in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)