Today on the Hill: Senate Begins Consideration of Disaster Relief Bill

March 27, 2019

Senators have officially begun consideration of a sweeping supplemental disaster aid bill (text; summary) that would provide emergency funding to states and territories that have been impacted by various natural disasters in recent months. The $13.5 billion measure includes funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects aimed at improving flood and storm damage mitigation, as well as nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico. The bill also includes an extension of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), suggesting that lawmakers believe the disaster package can be leveraged as a broad legislative vehicle to clear outstanding priorities.

Speaking with reporters yesterday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) suggested that the House and Senate could go to a Conference Committee to hammer out a final compromise on the disaster aid bill. One of the key sticking points in negotiations has been aid for Puerto Rico, as House Democrats have criticized the Senate GOP's provisions for not adequately addressing the relief and recovery efforts on the island. House Democrats are also pushing for more state revolving funds to repair water systems damaged by flooding and other natural disasters, as well as more funding for Community Development Block Grants.

In the House, lawmakers are set to consider a bill (H.R. 7) that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. Final passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act is expected tomorrow after lawmakers work through nine amendments to the underlying bill today.