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Republican senators to press disaster aid case to Trump

UNITED STATES - MARCH 5: Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 5: Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday afternoon to discuss a path forward on disaster aid, the Alabama Republican told reporters.

GOP Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Joni Ernst of Iowa will also attend the meeting, Shelby said.

Efforts to pass a supplemental assistance package for victims of 2018 storms, wildfires and flooding more recently this year have stalled largely due to a dispute over aid to Puerto Rico. While Hurricane Maria battered the island territory in 2017 and Congress appropriated billions of dollars to help, some $20 billion in rebuilding aid through the Department of Housing and Urban Development remains unspent, and Trump has accused Puerto Rico officials of mismanagement.

Shelby declined to say whether he would try to persuade the president to modify some of the demands he has made on aid for Puerto Rico, saying, ā€œIā€™m going to talk to him about what some of us, where some of us think we are and where we think we maybe could go.ā€

Senate Republicans have introduced a $13.45 billion aid package, which includes $600 million in additional food assistance to Puerto Rico residents who lost benefits starting last month when their previous nutrition allotment ran out. Democrats have sought an additional $462 million for long-term rebuilding of the U.S. island territory, along with a commitment to speed up the delivery of billions of dollars in aid that has yet to be disbursed by HUD.

House Democrats introduced a $17.2 billion version earlier this week that builds on an earlier House-passed version with an additional $3 billion to help Midwest flooding victims recover.

Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.