Disaster deal very much in doubt as recess looms

Disaster deal very much in doubt as recess looms

23rd May 2019 Off By adpublisher

A sign reading “road closed” in front of a road destroyed by flooding in Nebraska on May 5. A failure to produce a disaster package would be the latest bipartisan letdown in a week. | Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Any hope of a long-awaited deal on disaster funding began to slip away Wednesday evening as talks stalled just before both chambers plan to leave for the Memorial Day recess.

Congressional negotiators remain stuck on a slew of immigration-related provisions in the package, lowering expectations of a bipartisan agreement to deliver the massive emergency package to Trump’s desk by Friday, according to multiple sources.

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“We gotta do it tonight, if we’re going to do anything tomorrow or Friday,” Senate Appropriations chief Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters earlier Wednesday, adding that he would push top appropriators to keep talking into the evening. But there was still no plan to meet late Wednesday, and Republicans say they’re still awaiting a response from Democrats.

Democrats say they did plan to send a counteroffer to Republicans on Wednesday night, but even if a deal is reached, it leaves little time for a vote in either chamber.

Any one senator can now delay the bill for more than a day, which could begin conflicting with CODELs that begin on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, heightening the urgency.

The House is slated to leave town Thursday, though Senate GOP leaders have left open the possibility of voting Friday.

Top Republicans, including Shelby, had been optimistic earlier Wednesday that they could finalize the package before a week-long break from Washington. The final obstacle was the Trump administration’s funding request for emergency aid to handle the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

Both parties had already settled on the rest of the package, which is expected to include more than $17 billion in aid for communities hit by hurricanes, wildfires and extreme flooding.

But by Wednesday evening, Republicans said Democrats’ requests to add new restrictions on immigration were unproductive and raised doubts over whether the bill would pass in time, per two GOP sources close to the issue.

Meanwhile, Democrats said the two parties were still far apart on immigration, and complained about Republicans’ “ theatrics” in trying to set up an 11th-hour meeting.

House Democrats said they had been clear from the start that they would need strong oversight for any money handed over to the Trump administration for immigration.

“We made a good-faith offer and we’re trying to deal with the humanitarian crisis — not provide a blank check,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Wednesday of the talks.

A failure to produce a disaster package would be the latest bipartisan letdown in a week that already saw talks on Capitol Hill collapse on infrastructure and the looming budget caps battle.

Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Marianne LeVine contributed.