Lone Texas Congressman Blocks Bipartisan Disaster Relief Bill
Natural disaster relief bill temporarily blocked by a single vote.
A single vote Friday by conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) blocked a bipartisan natural disaster relief package that had passed Thursday in the Senate 85-8. The relief funding had widespread support from President Donald Trump and the leadership of both parties, but Roy said he opposed the bill because it would add to the national debt and because it lacks funding for U.S.-Mexico border operations.
Roy’s surprise rejection of the bill comes as many lawmakers already left town for the Memorial Day Recess, meaning the relief funding will likely be stalled for another 10 days. The House had bypassed the regular voting process for the bill because of the holiday, but that left the bill needing a unanimous approval.
Roy explained his decision on the House floor:
“This is a $19 billion bill that is not paid for when we’re racking up $100 million of debt per hour. Our nation is strong enough and compassionate enough to have a responsive and fiscally responsive approach to help people who are hurting in the wake of natural disasters. And we now are expected to continue to let the swamp continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren.”
What Was in the Relief Bill?
The $19.1 billion dollar relief fund would have provided around $900 million for Puerto Rico, which is still suffering the effects of the Category 5 Hurricane Maria. The bill, which has been negotiated for months, would also have helped communities in the U.S. hurt by wildfires, flooding and other disasters over the past few years.
“I didn’t want to hold that up any longer. I totally support it,” said President Trump.
Texas would have been one of the bill’s major recipients since it was plagued by record floods in 2017, although Roy’s district was not affected.
Democrats expressed disappointment with Rep. Roy, who is undecided as to whether he will reject the aid package again next Tuesday. In addition to the bill’s lack of border funding and potential to add to the debt, Roy cited the bill’s fast-tracked passage as reason for dissent.
“This is a rotten thing to do. This is going to pass,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
“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. Every day of Republican obstruction, more disasters have struck, more damage has piled up, and more families have been left in the cold,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
Normally, the House needs a simple majority to pass legislation, but they can speed up the process by restricting debate and amendment time in exchange for a two-thirds requirement vote. It is possible the bill will pass next week when the House returns from recess.