Bipartisan lawmakers reach deal on disaster relief, shrugging off Trump’s border money demands

Hours after Trump said Congress can't legislate and do oversight, Congress decided to legislate without him.

Senate Appropriations Committee chair Richard Shelby (R-AL).
Senate Appropriations Committee chair Richard Shelby (R-AL), in February 2019. (Photo credit: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Congressional leaders agreed on Thursday to a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill, rebuffing President Donald Trump’s demand that the legislation include more funding for border security.

The Senate later passed the measure by a vote of 85-8.

According to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the appropriations committee, Trump has agreed to sign the deal even though lawmakers took out all of his requested border money.

“I’m sure he wanted [the border funding], but we took it all out. We’re going to try and push that separately when we come back as needed,” he said, according to NBC News. “But we’re sticking with disaster now, that’s the way to pass the bill. The president has agreed to it.”

Trump charged on Wednesday, and again on Thursday, that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives was doing nothing and was incapable of legislating while also conducting its constitutionally required oversight duty of investigating the president. He walked out of a scheduled bipartisan meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), promising not to do anything about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure until Congress stopped investigating him and his administration.

But with lawmakers eager to come to a conclusion on disaster relief for the Southeast, Midwest, California and — to Trump’s consternation — Puerto Rico, they simply reached a bipartisan deal and told the president that they were going to move on it afterward.

Shelby and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) reportedly cut the deal together and informed the White House. “It’s a good deal. This disaster issue has played on for months and months,” Shelby said.


Though Trump reportedly agreed to sign it, he has in the past changed his mind about legislation after making similar promises. Just months ago, he forced the longest partial government shutdown in United States history after he backed out of a bipartisan deal to keep the government running.

Trump is currently facing several investigations surrounding allegations of obstruction outlined in special counsel Mueller’s report, as well as inquiries into his personal and business finances and official inaugural committee. He has rebuffed attempts to subpoena key documents, setting up the two sides for an extended legal battle.


UPDATE: A day after the Senate passed the disaster bill overwhelmingly, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) blocked a unanimous consent motion to pass it in the House. Thanks to his efforts, the bill will have to wait until members of the House return to Washington, D.C., from their Memorial Day travels, likely in June.

Still, the bill appears likely to pass at that time.