Lawmakers reach agreement with White House on $19.1 billion disaster-aid package

Lawmakers reach agreement with White House on $19.1 billion disaster-aid package

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) thanked President Donald Trump for "breaking the gridlock" on the legislation. (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian/TMN)

WASHINGTON – After months of negotiations, lawmakers reached an agreement with the White House on Thursday afternoon on a $19.1 billion disaster-aid package for states and territories that have been devastated by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, the Chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee said.

“I want to thank President Trump for breaking the gridlock and getting this disaster relief to Americans who so desperately need it. We have been working on this package for several months, and I am pleased to say that help is finally on the way,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement.

The agreement comes as lawmakers are headed home for the one-week Memorial Day recess, which begins on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had said he would not let lawmakers leave town until an agreement was reached.

The legislation provides agricultural relief for farmers. It includes money for veterans’ hospitals, watershed and wastewater infrastructure needs, military construction projects,  and resources to restore transportation needs.

The legislation provides $600 million in nutrition assistance and $304 million in community development grants for Puerto Rico, which Democrats had requested.

The major point of contention in negotiations was Trump’s insistence that the package include money for border security.

Shelby and fellow GOP Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) reportedly spoke with Trump earlier on Thursday and convinced the president to accept the bill without money for border security.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure later today.

The House of Representatives has already adjourned for recess and is expected to pass the measure by either by voice vote or unanimous consent during the pro forma session on Friday.

A pro forma session is when one member shows up and the chamber gavels-in and gavels-out.

The Constitution requires that Congress be in session a certain amount of days each year.

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