Congress

A House Republican may block the disaster aid bill for a third time this week

Rep. Thomas Massie lodged the objection Tuesday, following Rep. Chip Roy who did so on Friday

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks to reporters after objecting to the unanimous consent for passage of the disaster aid bill in the House on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A second Republican lawmaker blocked Congress from clearing a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill — a tactic that will likely be repeated for a third time later this week during another round of political theater.

The GOP maneuvers are likely to be for naught, however, as it’s a matter of time before the House clears the package for President Donald Trump’s signature. The chamber reconvenes on June 3 after the weeklong Memorial Day recess, and a roll call vote could be held as soon as that evening, if another unanimous consent request expected Thursday is blocked.

[Rep. Chip Roy won’t object to disaster aid package today, but others may]

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. on Tuesday objected to the House passing, without a recorded vote, the disaster aid bill that would help states and territories recover from a series of deadly storms and wildfires.

“If Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi considered this must-pass legislation, why did she send everybody home on recess for 10 days without voting on it? To pass a $19 billion bill like this, without a recorded vote, is legislative malpractice,” Massie said prior to the unanimous consent request, made by Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., D-Ga.

Massie also objected to the House considering a two-week extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which expires at the end of this week. The Senate passed the measure by voice vote before leaving town May 23.

Massie’s objections — as well as those of Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who blocked passage Friday and Rep. Alex X. Mooney, R-W.Va., who accompanied Massie in the chamber Tuesday — incurred the wrath of several of his colleagues from hard hit states.

[Who is Rep. Chip Roy?]

The Senate passed the bill on an 85-8 vote last week with 39 GOP senators supporting the legislation, including Georgia Sen. David Perdue, who called the House Republicans’ objections “pathetic.”

“This is yet another example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest,” Perdue tweeted Tuesday. “It’s pathetic that some members have chosen this moment to grandstand & get into the national headlines.”

Rep. Austin Scott referred to House GOP objectors as “clowns.”

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018. This bill will pass the House next week, and President Trump will sign it,” the Georgia Republican wrote on Twitter.

[GOP Rep. causes $19.1 billion disaster aid bill to stall in House]

Their comments follow those of Texas GOP Rep. Kay Granger last week, who referred to Roy’s actions a “political stunt.”

“As Republicans and as conservatives, we believe that there is no more important function for the federal government than to be there during disasters,” Granger said in a statement. She noted the measure would free up $4 billion in relief funds for Texas through the Community Development Block Grant program dating back to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, while providing new assistance for areas hit by flooding and tornadoes this year and last. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise agreed to pass the legislation by unanimous consent, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer. Neither office returned a request for comment about their colleagues’ actions as of press time.

The next opportunity for passage of the disaster aid bill will come Thursday at 4:30 p.m. when the House meets for another pro forma session. Hoyer said there will be another UC attempt then, but that the chamber would regardless vote shortly after lawmakers return to Washington on Monday.

Prior to Massie’s objection to the disaster aid measure, Hoyer implored lawmakers to let the bill pass.

“It needs to be passed as soon as possible for the welfare of our people in this country who have been attacked by natural disasters,” Hoyer told Massie and the rest of the small group of lawmakers in the chamber.

Not a ‘speed bump’

Roy said on May 24 that he blocked that UC request due to concerns about process as well as leaving out billions of dollars the Trump administration sought to help agencies deal with an unprecedented surge of migrants at the Mexican border.

Massie said he’d spoken with Roy about blocking the bill’s passage, and that there’d likely be one or more Republicans in the chamber on Thursday to object the next time a request is made. He said the effort was being organized “by those of us who don’t just want to be a speed bump and a vestigial part of Congress.”

He said he was opposed to the bill’s $19 billion price tag as well as the process of trying to pass it without a recorded vote.

“The more often we let them get away with this, the more frequently they will do it,” Massie told reporters after his objection. “Until basically all congressmen are just employees of the Capitol Visitors Center.”

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on the disaster bill May 23 after dropping a border aid title in a dispute over information sharing provisions that Democrats believed could prevent unaccompanied children from being released from custody to family members.

The deal came after the House took its last roll call votes before the weeklong break, therefore the only way that chamber can clear the bill this week is through unanimous consent, unless Democratic leaders end the recess early and bring members back.

The Senate approved the bill in an 85-8 vote on May 23, making the House the last obstacle before the bill can head to Trump’s desk.Trump has said he plans to sign the legislation.

Some Republicans pushing for aid laid the blame at the feet of House Democratic leaders, arguing there’s no reason they had to leave town May 23 before voting on the bill.

“I’m disappointed that Speaker Pelosi closed the House of Representatives down before they could vote on this ... because politicians wanted to leave early” for the Memorial Day break, Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley told reporters Tuesday.

The Iowa Republican said he assumes the measure will clear the House next week “as soon as they get back in session.”

Doug Sword and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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