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House Republicans again block passage of disaster aid bill

Posted at 4:14 PM, May 28, 2019

For the second time in a week, House Republicans blocked the passage of a more than $19 billion disaster relief bill , further delaying the approval of funds that cleared the Senate last week with overwhelming bipartisan support.

House Democrats attempted to pass the bill via unanimous consent on Tuesday, but Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky objected. Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia was on the House floor standing next to Massie for the objection. It only takes one person to object in order to block a bill from passing immediately through unanimous consent.

With Congress in recess, House Democrats will have another chance at a second pro forma this coming Thursday, and then again next week when the House returns on Monday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was also in the chamber Tuesday to call on Republicans not to object.

"I urge them to do so because millions of people ... are at risk," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swiftly condemned the latest objection, saying in a statement that "the heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds."

"House Republicans have repeated their stunning act of obstruction -- even after more deadly storms ravaged our country over the weekend," Pelosi said.

Massie told reporters after voicing his objection that he was trying to "stop legislative malpractice," by preventing legislation from passing without all House members present to take a vote.

"I'm just here to stop legislative malpractice today. Passing a $19 billion bill with no recorded vote is legislative malpractice," the Republican lawmaker said.

"I oppose the bill on fiscal grounds. Some people would say this is not a convenient or polite time to talk about the debt and the deficit," Massie said. "My question to them is when is the time? Because I've been here six years and we still don't have a plan for how to pay for things like disaster relief."

The Kentucky lawmaker would not say who is coordinating the House Republican efforts to block passage of the bill and said that he had not spoken with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about the objection.

"There's no organization," Massie said when pressed by reporters.

The Senate passed the bill, 85-8, on Thursday. Trump has said publicly that he would sign the bill even without the border funding he had previously requested.

On Friday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, was in Washington to object to the legislation when House Democrats first tried to pass it via unanimous consent.

"We're not elected to have things pass through consent without debate," Roy had said. "We should have had a vigorous debate and we should have a debate about why we're not securing the border and why we're spending money we don't have."

North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer criticized his fellow conservatives in the House Tuesday who opposed the disaster aid bill because it lacked border crisis funding, which was stripped out of the package at the last minute to preserve the legislation and allow it to pass.

"I've always thought what's not in the bill is a bad reason not to support good things," Cramer said about the Roy's opposition. "I've seen low-hanging fruit around here used as leverage. That's never made sense to me. I just think that we can do a lot better by passing what's good rather than vote 'no' waiting for the perfect."

Cramer, who served three terms in the House before being elected to the Senate last year, said Roy isn't the only House member to oppose quick passage of the bill, which cleared the Senate last week after months of negotiations.

"A lot gets made of the fact that one person did this. The one person that did it obviously represents several others who would have done it if not for them," said Cramer, speaking to reporters in the Capitol after overseeing a pro forma session of the Senate. "I just think unanimous consent (or) voice vote on the way out the door -- out of 535 there always a few that think that's not appropriate."