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 LoweyLobbying world Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Biden needs to tear down bureaucratic walls and refocus Middle East programs MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to The Hill.
“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 ErnstGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal 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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE withdrew a demand that the package include emergency funding for the Southern border. He also agreed to allow additional funding for Puerto Rico.
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 leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Reps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor Photos of the Week: Afghanistan evacuees, Paralympics and the French fire 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 MassieReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Kentucky GOP lawmaker deletes tweet comparing vaccine mandates to Holocaust 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 ScottThis week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake House committee moves to block private funds for National Guard deployments House Republican takes part in hearing while driving car MORE (R-Ga.) tweeted on Tuesday.
Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerConservative women's group endorses Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas governor Bottom line House passes sprawling spending bill ahead of fall shutdown fight 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 PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan 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 McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race 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?”