Senate leaders agree on refugee care

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Republican and Democrat on a key Senate panel have agreed on a $4.6 billion measure to house and care for immigrant refugees flocking across the U.S.-Mexico border — a long-delayed step toward averting a humanitarian tragedy at overcrowded and inadequate federal facilities in the southwest.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., will unveil the measure at an Appropriations Committee session Wednesday, aides to the duo said. A bipartisan vote is expected and both sides hope the measure can pass both chambers next week, just in time to replenish federal humanitarian aid coffers before they run completely dry.

The legislation comes as record numbers of migrants are traveling to the border.

“This is a humanitarian crisis of gargantuan proportions. It needs to be dealt with and I hope we’re going to see a sign of bipartisan cooperation in the Appropriations Committee,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Meanwhile, top-level negotiations over paying the country’s bills and funding about $1.3 trillion in agency budgets are set to reconvene Wednesday, in an effort to head off a financial train wreck when a series of deadlines hit this fall.

The bipartisan budget talks are aimed at preventing automatic spending cuts threatening the top priorities of both Democrats and Republicans. McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are taking the lead, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

Wednesday afternoon’s talks — on double-barreled legislation to set new “caps” on spending accounts controlled by Congress and also increase the government’s so-called debt limit — are intended to set a more orderly fiscal agenda that would permit relatively routine passage of both spending bills and drama-free consideration of the debt limit legislation, required this fall to avert a market-rattling default on U.S. obligations like bond payments.