The long-sought passage of a multi-billion-dollar aid package for disaster-hit communities across the U.S. was derailed once again by a sole Republican congressman.
With most lawmakers in their home districts this week, the House held a pro forma vote Tuesday afternoon during which Rep. Thomas Massie objected to the $19.1 billion legislation. The Kentucky lawmaker, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said he thought House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should have "called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days."
Early last week, the Senateover additional recovery funds for Puerto Rico and passed its version of the package.
On Friday, however, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, another Freedom Caucus member, objected to a unanimous consent vote while on the House floor. In addition to expressing concerns about the country's growing deficit, he cited his opposition to both passing legislation without a roll call vote and the fact that the bill lacked billions in border enforcement funding requested by the White House.
If enacted, the disaster package would deliver aid to help Puerto Ricans facing food assistance cuts, farmers in the South still struggling after Hurricane Michael ravaged their crops last year, wildfire victims in California and communities in Midwestern states like Iowa and Missouri recovering from devastating floods.
First introduced by House Democrats in January, the legislation hasover initial hesitation by Senate Republicans to approve more hurricane relief funds for Puerto Rico, which President Trump has publicly and privately opposed. Last week, however, the White House departed from that stance and the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming 85 to 8 vote.
Democratic leaders have faulted the president for what has so far proven to be an elusive agreement on disaster aid, one of the rare bipartisan issues in Congress. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who urged Republicans last week to break with the White House and work with Democrats on bipartisan agreements, said Tuesday there was no doubt which party was to blame for the bill's continued failure.
"One Republican pops up after the next to prevent disaster-impacted areas from receiving the aid they so desperately need. First it was President Trump, then Republican members of the Senate, and now it's Republican members of the House," Schumer said in a statement. "Where are the Republicans who falsely blamed Democrats in the past for blocking this aid?"
Pelosi went even further, accusing congressional Republicans of playing "political games" at the expense of disaster-hit communities.
"The heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds," she said in a statement. "Just days after sabotaging a bipartisan and bicameral bill to provide urgently-needed relief to millions of American families reeling from natural disasters, House Republicans have repeated their stunning act of obstruction – even after more deadly storms ravaged our country over the weekend."
Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the House, said leadership will hold a floor vote on the aid package when Congress reconvenes next week.
Rebecca Kaplan and Alan He contributed to this report.