Third House Republican blocks disaster aid bill
A conservative House Republican prevented the passage of a disaster aid bill on Thursday, meaning lawmakers won’t be able to send the measure to President Trump until the chamber reconvenes next week.
Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) objected to the third attempt by Democrats in the past week to clear a $19.1 billion package providing funds for disaster-stricken areas by unanimous consent.
House members left Washington last Thursday for the Memorial Day recess and won’t be back until Monday. Democrats tried to clear the bill during pro forma sessions with few lawmakers present last Friday and on Tuesday, but were met with objections from conservative Republicans who demanded a roll call vote.
The legislation, which provides funding for areas ravaged by recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, was stalled for months in the Senate due to the Trump administration’s resistance to additional money for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and demands that a $4.5 billion request for funds to address the flow of migrants at the southern border.
Trump ultimately relented on those demands last week. The Senate then quickly moved to pass the bill 85-8 last Thursday before adjourning for the holiday recess.
The disaster aid package includes $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, as well as $5 million for a study of the aid received by the island territory in 2017.
The legislation also includes an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program through September.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) first objected to passing the legislation by unanimous consent last week, citing its addition to the deficit and lack of funds for the southern border.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) then objected to the second attempt during Tuesday’s pro forma session, saying that there should be a roll call vote on legislation of that magnitude instead of in a format with only a few lawmakers and staff present.
“If the Speaker of this House felt that this was must-pass legislation, the Speaker of this House should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days,” Massie said on the House floor.
While Rose blocked the disaster aid bill, the House did pass by unanimous consent a two-week extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was set to expire Friday at midnight.
“The NFIP is a safety net for millions of Americans, and we could not afford to let it lapse,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the flood insurance extension bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “We need to pass the disaster supplemental package as soon as possible to ensure the NFIP’s viability as we enter hurricane season.”
Fellow Republicans, particularly lawmakers representing disaster-stricken areas, lashed out at the conservative lawmakers blocking swift passage of the legislation.
Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, called Roy’s move a “political stunt.”
And on Tuesday, Rep. Austin Scott (Ga.) blasted fellow Republicans blocking the legislation as “clowns.”
“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018. This bill will pass the House next week, and President Trump will sign it,” Scott tweeted.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) also criticized Massie’s move, writing in a tweet that “This is yet another example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest.”