Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay

Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay

A $19.1 billion disaster aid bill has been repeatedly tripped up in the House by conservative Republicans, creating an embarrassment for a House GOP coming under fire from Democrats and some of its own members for delaying a package meant to help stricken communities.

To make matters worse, the bipartisan package is being delayed as a series of tornadoes and floods devastate the Midwest and South.

“After more than four months of delay, it is absolutely outrageous that House Republicans are continuing to block passage of a disaster relief bill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyPelosi: Israel's Omar-Tlaib decision 'a sign of weakness' Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar DHS wants to shift money to immigration enforcement: report MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to The Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The floods and tornadoes of the last few days remind us of the cruelty of this unnecessary Republican obstructionism,” she added.

While the package doesn't include money for the most recent disasters, focusing instead on hurricanes and wildfires from last year, some of the funds are for federal disaster relief that could aid in recovery.

The timing has also elicited criticism from within the GOP, with some lawmakers directing their ire at the handful of conservatives blocking the legislation.

“It’s long past time Congress act to help Iowans in need, which is why I voted for and helped pass this critical disaster aid package in the Senate that has the support of the President,” Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate Businesses, farmers brace for new phase in Trump trade war Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules MORE (R-Iowa), said in a statement to The Hill Wednesday.

Flooding shut down a major interstate highway in Iowa on Wednesday, and residents in some parts of the state have had to deal with standing flood waters for more than two months.

The disaster aid bill came together quickly last week after months of haggling, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE withdrew a demand that the package include emergency funding for the Southern border. He also agreed to allow additional funding for Puerto Rico.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate passed the bill on May 23, and congressional leaders from both parties agreed to approve the measure in the House through unanimous consent, allowing lawmakers to head back to their districts for the Memorial Day recess.

But Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyGOP lawmaker blasts Omar and Tlaib: Netanyahu right to block 'enemies' of Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats step up attacks ahead of Detroit debate Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Texas) objected to the bill’s passage on Friday, blocking the House’s ability to use the fast-track procedure. He argued that the measure deserved a full vote, and decried its contribution to the growing national debt.

When Democrats brought the bill up again on Tuesday, Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieAirports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) blocked the measure, adding his objections to a planned extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire on Friday.

The delays come as the National Weather Service says flooding affecting eight states along the Mississippi River has been the longest since 1927, with flooding in the Arkansas River poised to break records.

House Democrats will try to pass the disaster bill again on Thursday by unanimous consent.

"I would wait to see what happens on Thursday," said Robert Donachie, a spokesman for Roy, suggesting the measure could be blocked for a third time.

Since the measure has enough votes to pass once the House is back in session next week, the best conservatives can do is delay its passage until then.

But with headlines proclaiming the country has been subjected to 500 tornadoes in the past 30 days — a near record — and flooding in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, the delay tactics by conservatives have prompted sharp rebukes from fellow Republicans.

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” Rep Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottHouse approves much-delayed .1B disaster aid bill Third House Republican blocks disaster aid bill Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay MORE (R-Ga.) tweeted on Tuesday.

Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerLobbying world House approves bill increasing federal worker pay House approves 3 billion spending package MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, called the legislative maneuvers a “political stunt.”

“As Republicans and as conservatives, we believe that there is no more important function for the federal government than to be there during disasters,” she said.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) called the moves “pathetic," and said they are an “example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest.”

On Wednesday, Roy tweeted that it was House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Pelosi: Israel's Omar-Tlaib decision 'a sign of weakness' MORE’s (D-Calif.) responsibility to bring the House back into session early to allow for debate on the package.

Roy’s spokesman noted that the steps had been taken with the knowledge of GOP leadership, and played down the blowback from other Republicans.

“We understand that if you're a representative from Florida or Georgia, and you've been waiting for eight months, that it is upsetting,” Donachie said. “Obviously we want the money to go to those in need, but we want there to be a straight up-or-down vote.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTlaib says she won't visit Israel after being treated like 'a criminal' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Republicans offer support for Steve King challenger MORE’s (R-Calif.) office did not respond to a request for comment.

For Democrats, the moves have created a political opening to hammer the GOP.

“The heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds,” Pelosi said Tuesday, pointing to the most recent weather events. “How many more communities need to suffer before Republicans end their political games?”