U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) introduced his own version of a disaster relief package for victims of hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters in 2018. The bill would provide $13.45 billion in relief, less than the $14.2 billion in a package that passed the House earlier this year.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) threatened to oppose the bill if it does not provide more aid to Puerto Rico after the President told Senate Republicans he would block additional funding to the island territory. Senate Democrats have offered three different scenarios where they would vote to move a disaster relief bill out of the Senate: 1) vote on the bill passed by House Democrats earlier this year; 2) approve a filler appropriations bill and negotiate the final deal in a Senate-House Conference Committee; or 3) adopt an amendment from Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) directing more relief funds to Puerto Rico.
Negotiations took on a partisan tone this week after President Trump signaled his opposition to more aid for Puerto Rico. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) took procedural steps to block Democrats from proposing amendments to the current bill and limit debate on the Senate Floor.
Advocates for disaster relief hope the Senate will find enough common ground to approve a package that would allow the Senate to proceed to a Senate-House Conference Committee for negotiations of a final bill.
A summary outline of the Republicans’ bill can be found on the Senate Appropriations Committee website.