WASHINGTON — A single U.S. House Republican held up the passage of a sweeping $19.1 billion disaster aid package on Tuesday, marking the second time in a week that a lone GOP lawmaker has blocked the bill from advancing.
With most lawmakers back in their districts this week, the House held a “pro forma” session on Tuesday, where Democrats hoped to easily win unanimous consent to pass the long-stalled aid package, part of which would fund Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. But such a procedure requires that no lawmakers object.
One Republican did, further stalling the distribution of disaster aid.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the House floor, saying that if she felt the bill was “must-pass legislation,” she “should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days.”
The U.S. Senate passed the measure last Wednesday night, just before most House lawmakers left for the Memorial Day recess on Thursday. The House attempted to adopt the package by voice vote Thursday, but Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) objected then, arguing that the package should have been considered more carefully before passage. He also sought $4.4 billion for beefed up security along the U.S.- Mexico border, an amount President Trump has pushed for.
The House will convene for another “pro forma” session this Thursday, when lawmakers may attempt to pass the measure again. If another lawmaker objects, the House is expected to overwhelmingly pass the bipartisan bill when the full chamber reconvenes next week.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) urged his GOP colleagues to approve the bill on Tuesday. “Millions of people are at risk,” he said. The aid package “needs to be passed as soon as possible for the welfare of our people in this country who have been attacked by natural disasters.”
In addition to hurricane-ravaged regions, the aid would go to areas devastated by wildfires, flooding and tornadoes across the country.
“Natural disasters have mercilessly ravaged so many American communities, but instead of providing swift relief, Republicans again today offered only prolonged misery,” said Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents South Florida. “The brutal contempt that House Republicans continue to show for those suffering in the Midwest, Florida’s Panhandle, Puerto Rico and our military base communities is dangerous, cruel and costlier over the long term.”