A second Republican member of Congress has blocked the rushed passage of a $19 billion disaster relief bill.
What’s the background?
This is the second time that the House of Representatives has tried to pass this bill by unanimous consent, since many members are currently away from Washington, D.C., during the Memorial Day spring recess. If even a single member objects, the bill is stalled until the House is back in session.
On May 24, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) objected to the bill and blocked it from proceeding. He called it the “kind of swampy practice” that “Texans elected me to stand against.”
Before the bill reached the House, it passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 8.
This legislation included $3 billion for farmers, $909 million in food benefits and other aid to Puerto Rico, and $3 billion set aside to “rebuild our military bases and Coast Guard facilities.” It also included additional “supplemental appropriations” for departments dealing with the natural disasters. What it lacked was any funding for border security, which the Senate had stripped out before it passed the bill.
President Donald Trump publicly expressed “total approval” for this bill after it passed the Senate, even without any border funding.
What happened now?
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives again tried to pass the relief bill, and it was once again blocked by a single member. This time it was Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) who spoke out against the bill.
“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 legislation before sending its members on recess for 10 days,” he said, according to Politico.
In addition to objecting to the bill being rushed through without the whole House in session, Roy and Massie raised objections to spending $19 billion while the national debt continues to grow, and to the Senate’s removal of all border-related funding.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that this bill “needs to be passed as soon as possible for the welfare for the people in this country.”
However, Hoyer also said that he won’t call the House back into session early and will instead wait for members to reconvene after their recess ends. This would place the House vote on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
“Very frankly, three or four days isn’t going to make a difference. What makes a difference is the inability to come to a rational agreement, which we have done, and not have somebody object simply because they have the power to do so in this context,” Hoyer said, according to Politico.
Other House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), are supporting both this bill and Hoyer’s push to get it passed quickly.
The House and Senate have been debating versions of this bill for several months now. The current version was first introduced in the House on April 9.