- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Senate will hold a vote on an emergency spending disaster relief bill next week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday, saying he won’t send his troops home to affected states for a Memorial Day vacation without giving them a chance to show some progress.

“It’s time to quit the foolishness,” Mr. McConnell said, urging both sides to rally around something.

The disaster money has proved to be a major flashpoint for Capitol Hill, with Democrats sparring with President Trump over what assistance to Puerto Rico will be included in the bill, which otherwise focuses on flooding, storm damage and wildfires across the continental U.S.

Mr. McConnell said he can’t remember a longer delay between the disasters themselves and Congress’s action.

Democrats said the GOP has caved on Puerto Rico and are “moving” to add money for the island territory to the bill to cover damage from the two hurricanes in 2017.

“We are making progress. I think the Republicans have finally learned they will not get a disaster bill unless they treat Puerto Rico fairly,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Mr. Trump has been feuding with Puerto Rican leaders, saying the federal government has already committed what could be a record amount of money to recover from the hurricanes. But not all of that money is guaranteed, and of the dollars that are earmarked, most have yet to actually flow to the territory.

The House has passed two separate disaster bills.

One that cleared the House in January stumbled in a Senate filibuster in April.

House Democrats countered with a new $17 billion bill last week, passing it with nearly three dozen Republicans’ votes over the objection of the White House, which said the bill was still too generous to Puerto Rico.

Mr. Schumer said key Republicans from states desperate for the cash have realized Mr. Trump’s demands are hurting their own constituents by holding up the money.

“We all know what happened. There was a good bipartisan bill that treated Puerto Rico fairly. President Trump came to a lunch and said I don’t want to give any aid to Puerto Rico,” Mr. Schumer said. “Now their members in states that really need the help are saying to Mitch McConnell get something done. And they know we’re right.”

Mr. McConnell said the Senate is still working on a deal, but expressed frustration that there hasn’t been one yet.

“We will be having a vote because I’m not going to be sending our members of either party home … without some action,” he said.

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