House Republican blocks final vote on disaster aid bill until June

Victims of Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters will have to wait into next month for Congress to give final approval to a $19.1 billion relief bill, as final passage of the plan in the House was blocked on Friday by a lone Republican lawmaker, forcing a delay until Congress returns for legislative business in the first week of June.

“I respectfully object,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a more conservative Republicans who stayed in town after the House had completed its legislative business on Thursday, and came to the floor Friday morning to object to acting on the plan without a full roll call vote.

The House had approved $19.1 billion in disaster aid in early May; the Senate on Thursday amended the plan with the backing of President Trump – but it wasn’t good enough to get unanimous consent for approval in the House.

“If I do not object, Congress will have passed into law a bill that spends $19 billion of taxpayer money without members of Congress being present here in our nation’s capital,” Roy said on the House floor, forcing a further delay on the disaster aid measure.

One of Roy’s objections was that no money was included in the plan for the immigrant surge along the southern border - President Trump had backed off of that in order to secure a deal on Thursday.

Roy’s maneuver drew the scorn of fellow Republicans from states which are need of aid - like Georgia - where farmers suffered devastating losses from Hurricane Michael.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) tweeted that “our farmers need aid today,” as this move by his GOP colleague will delay that process into June, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fellow Republicans with farmers in need of assistance.

Democrats were furious.

“House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

“Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need,” Pelosi added in a statement.

“This is a rotten thing to do,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who noted to reporters that Roy was blocking aid for his own home state of Texas.

“We should have passed this months ago,” said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who asked for approval of the measure on the House floor.

“I am beyond fed up. This is wrong,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA).  “This bill is about helping people – not about playing Washington politics.”

“Republican politicians are playing games while people’s homes are literally underwater,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Unless Republicans relent next week, the House would not be able to set up a vote on the disaster aid measure until the week of June 3.

“There are people who are really hurting, and he’s objecting,” Shalala said.  “He’s holding hostage thousands of people.” 

The House has two ‘pro forma’ meetings scheduled for next week - on Tuesday and Friday.  Republicans could object to passing the bill at those times as well.

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