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Another Conservative Republican Blocks Disaster Aid Bill in the House

May 28, 2019 by Dan McCue
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) speaks during a press conference on March 12, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Massie objected to the House passing a bill that would help states and territories recover from recent deadly storms and wildfires. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images/TNS)

For the second time in five days, a conservative Republican member of the House has blocked a long overdue $19 billion disaster bill.

Representative Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said that if Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had thought the measure so important, they should have kept the House in session late last week for an up-or-down roll call vote.

After the Senate passed the measure on Thursday, Pelosi tried to pass the popular measure in the House under fast-track procedures that permit any individual lawmaker to block the bill.

But on Friday, Texas Representative Chip Roy, a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz, complained the bill does not contain any money to address the migrant crisis at the border.

“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 vote on a bill that “spends a significant amount of taxpayer money.”

Roy’s decision drew a sharp rebuke from Speaker Pelosi, who said the delay of the bill has gone on long enough and that the Republicans were merely playing games ahead of the House going on its traditional Memorial Day recess.

“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.”

On Tuesday, Representative Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., flew to Washington to request the House pass the popular measure under the same fast-track procedures they’d tried to use on Friday.

After Massie killed the measure for a second time, Bishop took to Twitter to say, “Once again, Republicans have found a way to prolong the suffering of millions of Americans by blocking H.R. 2157. This disaster relief is vital to the livelihoods of millions and should not be used as a political pawn.”

Eventual passage of the bill, supported by President Donald Trump, is considered a foregone conclusion.

Many Republicans, including southerners facing re-election, are frustrated that the bill has taken so long.

After being denied his border money in a fight with House Democrats, Trump still backed the bill because it directs a large amount of aid to states that he believes are important to his re-election, including Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

But it was Trump who initially stymied the bill because he wanted to cut funding sought by Puerto Rico’s elected officials to continue recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, the deadly Category 5 hurricane that pummeled the island in September 2017.

Democrats held firm in demanding that Puerto Rico, a territory whose 3 million people are U.S. citizens, be helped by the measure.

The bill now includes more money for Puerto Rico, about $1.4 billion, than Democrats had originally sought.

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