WASHINGTON - The victims of Hurricane Michael and other recent natural disasters will need to wait a little longer for federal relief money after a House Republican used a procedural move to block quick passage of the Senate’s recently-finalized disaster relief agreement on Friday.
Democrats were seeking to send the $19.1 billion measure to President Donald Trump’s desk as the House convened for a pro forma session Friday morning. With most lawmakers already scattered across the country for the Memorial Day recess and unable to cast a roll call vote, leaders were instead seeking to pass the bill using unanimous consent. But that requires the approval of all lawmakers present in the House chamber.
U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a conservative Republican who once worked as Ted Cruz’ top aide, blocked the request.
“If I do not object, Congress will have passed into a law a bill that spends $19 billion in taxpayer money without members of Congress being present here in our nation’s capital to vote on it,” he said.
Roy was also upset the legislation lacked funding for the southern border – a White House ask that was dropped at the last minute – and did not include spending offsets.
The maneuver forces another delay for the legislation, which has been bogged down by various disagreements for months.
It’s expected to easily cruise through the House when it does. Senators passed it 85 to 8 on Thursday afternoon.
The House’s next roll call vote isn’t scheduled until the week of June 3rd. Democrats could try to advance the bill again during pro forma sessions next week, but Roy or another colleague could once again object.
Trump has promised to sign the legislation.
Roy’s action drew sharp rebukes from Democrats, as well as from many Georgia Republicans:
Procedural concerns lodged are valid, but the facts remain the same – our farmers need aid today.— Rep. Jody Hice (@CongressmanHice) May 24, 2019
I stand with @POTUS @realDonaldTrump in support of the bill to provide disaster relief for our #agriculture community. Should have happened months ago.
While political games over disaster assistance continue as a Member from TX blocked a package from getting to @POTUS desk today, one thing is clear: This bill has broad support & will advance when the House reconvenes & will be signed into law by POTUS the first week of June.— Rep. Austin Scott (@AustinScottGA08) May 24, 2019
But Roy wasn’t without his supporters:
Whether you agree with the disaster relief bill or not, surely you acknowledge members of congress should be in town to vote on it. Bravo to @RepChipRoy for requesting a recorded vote! If no one was there to vote on it, that’s @SpeakerPelosi ‘s fault.— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) May 24, 2019
Gov. Brian Kemp urged the House to reconvene next week to pass the bill.
“Yesterday, the U.S Senate finally put thousands of hardworking Americans ahead of partisan politics,” he said. “It’s time for the House to cut their vacation short, return to Washington next week, and do the same.”