A Republican lawmaker on Tuesday stalled a much-needed $19.1 billion disaster relief bill for the second time in less than a week.
The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday by a margin of 85-8, has already received President Donald Trump’s stamp of approval, and he plans to sign it, whenever it makes it to his desk. But on Tuesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) rejected efforts by a skeleton crew of Democrats to pass the bill by unanimous consent (meaning the measure is approved so long as no one objects), calling the tactic “legislative malpractice.”
Because most of the House is out on holiday this week, few lawmakers were present for Tuesday’s session. Those who were there attempted to pass the disaster relief bill but were quickly stonewalled.
According to Fox News, Massie claimed the “issue here is $19 billion … It is the definition of the swamp.”
“Everyone wants to be a hero by coming in and writing checks,” he said.
Massie’s objection is the second time in less than a week that a single Republican lawmaker has interfered with advancing this vital relief funding. On Friday, it was Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) who blocked the package from advancing. He believed that passing the bill without the full House present was too “swampy.”
The aid package in question includes relief for hurricanes that hit almost two years ago, as well as California’s wildfire victims. A previous version of the legislation stalled after Trump threatened to veto it, because he wanted funding for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, and because Democrats sought to include additional support for storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
The back and forth over disaster relief comes as the nation faces massive flooding across the South and Midwest, as well as deadly tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, and elsewhere. Just this weekend, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) declared a state-wide emergency as the Arkansas River in Tulsa surged to four feet above flood level.
Roy this week praised Massie’s decision to join him in delaying the disaster relief, insisting that trying to pass the bill by unanimous consent was “yet another example of how the swamp operates.”
He then accused Democratic lawmakers of preferring to “play politics on impeachment.”
“I commend my colleague, Rep. Massie, for objecting to today’s Unanimous Consent on a $19.1 billion-dollar emergency supplemental bill that has been languishing … because Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic conference would rather play politics on impeachment,” he said, according to Fox News’ Chad Pergram.
Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) described the Republican lawmakers’ actions as “heartlessness” that “knows no bounds.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) likewise called on them to end their “shameful sabotage,” asking, “How many more communities need to suffer before Republicans end their political games?”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted in a statement that it’s only been Republicans, including Trump and lawmakers in both chambers, who have continued to delay disaster relief.
Even Massie’s fellow Republicans piled on, with Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) describing the Kentucky lawmaker and his allies as “clowns,” and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) accusing them of playing “political games.”
Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018. This bill will pass the House next week, and President Trump will sign it. #GA08
— Rep. Austin Scott (@AustinScottGA08) May 28, 2019
President @realDonaldTrump & an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate & House have finally found consensus on a disaster relief package after 8 months of delays.
It’s time to quit the political games & get this disaster relief across the finish line. https://t.co/OWr1RqqmZd
— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) May 28, 2019
Perdue helped get the bill across the finish line in the Senate. A chunk of the funding in the bill will go to Georgia, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
The bill is expected to be taken up again when the House is back in session next week, where it will likely pass.