Lone Texas lawmaker holds up passage of long-delayed disaster bill
A House GOP conservative complaining that a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill leaves out money needed to address the migrant crisis at the border blocked the bill Friday, extending a tempest over hurricane and flood relief that has left the measure meandering for months.
The move came a day after the measure flew through the Senate despite a Democratic power move to strip out President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion request for dealing with a migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a former aide to Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, complained that it does not contain any money to address increasingly urgent border needs. “It is a bill that includes nothing to address the international emergency and humanitarian crisis we face at our southern border,” Roy said.
He also objected to speeding the measure through a nearly empty chamber, saying it was important for lawmakers to actually vote on a bill that “spends a significant amount of taxpayer money.”
The relief measure would deliver money to Southern states suffering from last fall’s hurricanes, Midwestern states deluged with springtime floods and fire-ravaged rural California, among others. Puerto Rico would also get help for hurricane recovery.
Trump said Thursday that he will enthusiastically sign the bill, which delivers much-need
ed help to many areas in the country where he performs well with voters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a key force behind the measure which moved through the Senate with the enthusiastic embrace of Roy’s two GOP senators, said the delays have gone on too long. Senate action came after Trump surrendered in his fight with powerful Democrats over aid to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
“Now, after the President and Senate Republicans disrupted and delayed disaster relief for more than four months, House Republicans have decided to wage their own sabotage,” Pelosi said. “Every day of Republican obstruction, more disasters have struck, more damage has piled up and more families have been left in the cold.”
Democrats said the House might try to again pass the measure next week during a session, like Friday’s, that would otherwise be pro forma. If that doesn’t succeed, a quick bipartisan vote would come after Congress returns next month from its Memorial Day recess.
Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said she was upset at Roy’s action. “The fact that one person from a state that is directly affected could object, it’s just irresponsible,” she said. Texas was slammed by record floods in 2017, though not Roy’s San Antonio-area district.
GOP leaders and Trump support the bill, as do some lawmakers who are otherwise some of the chamber’s staunchest conservatives, such as Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga.
“This is a rotten thing to do. This is going to pass,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
Hours after Roy blocked the measure, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a digital ad in his district criticizing his move. It depicted a submerged Roy and said he’s “keeping Texas families underwater.”
Roy won his 2018 election by less than three percentage points. House Democrats’ campaign committee considers him a prime target for next year’s elections.
The House drama came less than 24 hours after the Senate passed the bill by a sweeping 85-8 vote that represented a brushback pitch by a chamber weary of Trump’s theatrics and where some members are increasingly showing impatience with the lack of legislative action.
Trump said he favored the bill even though $4 billion-plus to deal with the humanitarian crisis involving Central American migrants border has been removed.
“I didn’t want to hold that up any longer,” Trump said. “I totally support it.”
An evacuee leaves north Jefferson City, Missouri, as floodwaters from the Missouri River rise Friday. A Republican House member has blocked final passage of a long-delayed disaster relief package, prolonging the wait for communities in need of federal aid.