Patrick J Leahy

Senate passes long-stalled disaster aid bill with Trump support
Negotiators agreed to revisit stripped border-related funding after the Memorial Day recess

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and chef Jose Andres talk after running into each other in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Andres was on Capitol Hill for a briefing held by the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition, calling on Congress to help Puerto Rico achieve future growth and prosperity after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. On Thursday the Senate approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid deal which included $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico to help restore funding that ran dry in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After months of negotiations, Congress and the White House on Thursday reached agreement on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that will help communities recover from a series of deadly storms and wildfires. 

The draft bill does not include the border-related funding for migrants at the southern border sought by the Trump administration, the last hurdle that had been preventing a deal on the package.

Senate to take one last shot at disaster, border aid bill
The remaining sticking points are over immigration and oversight provisions related to Trump’s border funding request

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives for a news conference after the Republican Senate Policy Luncheon on May 14, 2019. On Thursday McConnell said on the Senate floor, that his colleagues need to come up with a disaster aid compromise “today, because one way or another the Senate is not leaving without taking action.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans were huddling behind closed doors Thursday morning to discuss their next move on supplemental aid for disaster victims and handling a huge influx of migrants at the southern border.

One emerging possibility was to drop billions of dollars in aid the White House is seeking for border-related agencies, including Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

Bernhardt defends Interior public records review policy
Bernhardt said the so-called ‘awareness review’ policy was legal and ‘very long-standing in the department’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt testifies during a Senate Appropriations on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2020 budget proposal for the Interior Department in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Bernhardt said to lawmakers the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended on Wednesday the agency’s policy allowing politically appointed officials to review and comment on public records requests that relate to them.

Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee to testify about his department’s budget, Bernhardt said the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal.

Republicans reviewing Democrats’ latest disaster aid offer
Chair declined to provide offer details, but said it could be the next step toward a bipartisan bill moving this week

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on May 7, 2019. On Wednesday Shelby said Republicans are mulling a counterproposal from Democrats on a multibillion-dollar package of supplemental aid for disaster victims, which includes money for addressing an influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican negotiators are mulling a counterproposal from Democrats on a multibillion-dollar package of supplemental aid for disaster victims that would also handle a huge influx of migrants at the southern border.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., declined to provide details on the offer, but said it could be the next step toward a bipartisan bill moving this week.

Disaster bill negotiators drop divisive harbor fund provision
Senate and House negotiators hoping for a deal before Memorial Day recess

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., says it would be an “awful conclusion” if Congress fails to pass a disaster relief bill before Memorial Day. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 10:06 p.m. | Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said he has pulled his divisive proposed change in the Harbor Maintenance Fund from consideration in the long-stalled disaster and border supplemental package after meeting with President Donald Trump.

The Alabama Republican also said Trump appeared to support the level of border funding in the package, and White House officials indicated they see the emergency legislation becoming law soon.

Pelosi: To woo Trump, border aid will likely be attached to disaster bill
Adding a border-related element to the disaster relief bill could garner the Trump administration’s support

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly press conference in the Capitol on May 16, 2019. She told reporters that a disaster aid package will likely include humanitarian assistance to address the surge of migrants across the southern border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

An emerging multibillion-dollar disaster aid package will likely include humanitarian assistance to address the surge of migrants across the southern border, an element that could garner the Trump administration’s support.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that lawmakers are planning to add funding to the unreleased package that would help stem the “humanitarian crisis.”

Disaster aid deal nears as White House presses border funds
‘We’re going to have a vote next week,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., left, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., leave the Capitol for a meeting at the White House with President Trump and Senate Republicans on December 21, 2018. Lawmakers say a Senate disaster aid bill appealing to Donald Trump and Democrats — with border funding and money for Puerto Rico recovery — could get a vote next week. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The monthslong Senate effort to draft a bipartisan disaster aid bill could come to a close within the next week, after members of both parties said Tuesday talks have taken a turn for the better.

“We’re going to have a vote next week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday after meeting with GOP colleagues for lunch. “I hope it’s a vote on a deal that has been reached with both sides of the aisle and the White House.”

Jeff Sessions, Doug Jones ring in happy birthday for Richard Shelby

A bipartisan group of senators, and one prominent ex-senator, wished Richard Shelby a happy birthday on Monday. (Jennifer Shutt/CQ Roll Call)

The hallways outside the Senate Appropriations Committee filled with the Happy Birthday song Monday afternoon as dozens of senators and staff gathered to wish Chairman Richard C. Shelby a happy 85th birthday.

The closed-door event included coconut cake, champagne and red napkins that read “Happy Birthday Senator Richard Shelby!”

Road ahead: Both chambers tackle disaster relief but conclusion still iffy
House goes after administration’s ‘junk’ plan rule, Senate nomination votes could result in Export-Import Bank quorum

From left, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. The top four appropriators are key to reaching a bipartisan deal on disaster relief. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate appropriators hope to wrap up negotiations this week on a bipartisan disaster relief package that can get President Donald Trump’s support, while House Democrats plan to forge ahead with a vote on their own preferred proposal.

The House bill would provide $17.2 billion in aid to areas affected by recent natural disasters. The measure is similar to one the chamber passed in January, but it includes an additional $3 billion to address subsequent floods in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South.

First women to lead spending panel have a mission: keep the lights on
Lowey, Granger had one government shutdown dumped in their laps. Now they’re trying to avoid another one

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, left, and ranking member Kay Granger are the first pair of women to lead the panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The first all-female duo leading the House Appropriations Committee since its Civil War-era creation is setting out to avoid the mess they walked into on Day One of their new roles — a government shutdown.

“I want to be very clear; I think there should be a commitment in the Congress — Democrats and Republicans working with the White House — to say, ‘We are adults, these are difficult issues, but we can resolve them,’” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey told CQ Roll Call this week in an interview alongside ranking member Kay Granger. “But throwing a tantrum and shutting down the government is not a responsible way to be a member of the government of the United States of America — whether you are in the legislative branch or the White House.”