Congress may be out for the weeklong Memorial Day break, but two Republican House members are busy blocking the disaster-aid bill that was just about to pass after months of partisan bickering. And pissing off their colleagues.
Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie on Tuesday became the second Republican to go out of his way to stall the bill approved by the Senate late last week to give over $19 billion to cities and states slammed by fires, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes in the last few years.
After months of fighting about how much the bill should include for Puerto Rico and whether it should address border security, Senate Dems and Republicans had finally reached agreement Thursday, and President Donald Trump said he’d pass it.
The bill just needed to get through the Democrat-controlled House by a vote of “unanimous consent,” a measure that allows legislation to move quickly through Congress when just a few members are present. But it only takes one opposing legislator to show up on the floor and block a unanimous consent vote, and Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas played that part Friday afternoon, after most of his colleagues had already gone home.
Roy argued the government was spending too much money on recovery and that the Senate should’ve addressed border security, as Trump initially requested. (Senate Republicans said they’d discuss border security funding outside of the disaster aid vote when they return from recess.) During a second attempt at a unanimous consent vote Tuesday, Massie showed up to the House floor to block the bill’s passage yet again. The bill will head to the floor again on Thursday for a unanimous consent vote, and a Republican will have to show up in person to block it again. Stay tuned.
When the full Democrat-controlled House returns to D.C. next week, the disaster aid bill will likely pass with broad support and head to Trump’s desk, despite Roy and Massie’s opposition.
“This is a $19 billion bill that is not paid for when we are wracking up $100 million of debt per hour,” Roy, who hails from a state that needs money to recover from Hurricane Harvey, said on the House floor Friday.
Massie joined in Tuesday when he tweeted that “passing an unbudgeted $19 billion spending bill without a vote of Congress is legislative malpractice.”
Some Republicans have since joined Democrats in criticizing Massie and Roy for holding up the bill for a few days to make a political point. Once approved by Trump, the bill will provide more than $1 billion to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and unlock federal aid for hard-hit communities in Texas, Florida, Georgia, California and the Midwest.
“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from hurricane-hit Georgia, said in a tweet after Massie said he’d vote against disaster aid. “This bill will pass the House next week, and President Trump will sign it.”
Scott’s Republican colleague from Georgia, Sen. David Perdue, joined in to call Massie’s dissent “pathetic.”
“This is yet another example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest,” Perdue wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “It’s pathetic that some members have chosen this moment to grandstand & get into the national headlines.”