Disaster aid bill blocked in House again after GOP objection

Relief bill tabled until after recess

By Clare Foran and Ashley Killough, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

A disaster aid bill has been blocked again in the House over concerns the budget.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - For the third time in the span of less than a week, a House Republican lawmaker on Thursday blocked the passage of a multibillion-dollar disaster relief bill, essentially guaranteeing the bill won't pass until the full House is back from recess on Monday.

The House and Senate are on recess this week, but when House Democrats tried to pass the legislation through unanimous consent on Thursday afternoon, Republican Rep. John Rose of Tennessee objected. The objection of just one lawmaker is all it takes to block legislation from being approved by unanimous consent.

The legislation is still expected to have the votes to pass when the House returns to Washington next week, but the objection will stall the bill until a floor vote can take place.

"This is absolutely without a doubt wrong," Rose said Thursday, raising concerns about the bill being brought to the floor when most members are in their home districts.

The $19.1 billion bill passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 8 earlier this month and President Donald Trump has expressed support for the legislation.

Rose did not say whether he plans to vote against the underlying bill when it comes up for a roll call vote, but was critical of the price tag.

"I am very concerned about spending $20 billion that is not paid for and anytime we're expanding the debt of this country in such a way and attempting to do so again through a process that does not allow for the debate of the taxpayers' elected representatives, then that's a concern of mine," he said.

Democrats have criticized the continued effort to block passage of the legislation, which has garnered bipartisan support. After the latest failed attempt to pass the bill on Thursday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on Republicans to "stop the political games, stop the delays and pass" the legislation.

"As Republicans continue their inexplicable months-long blockade of bipartisan disaster relief legislation, families in disaster-stricken areas are forced to keep waiting for the aid they desperately need," the New York Democrat said in a statement.

The opposition so far is coming from a small group of conservatives in the House, rather than GOP leadership.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said on Tuesday that the two top Republicans in the House -- Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana -- did not object to bringing the bill to the floor while Congress was out of town. A GOP aide confirmed that McCarthy and Scalise did not object.

But that hasn't stopped a handful of Republican lawmakers from objecting to passage of the measure. Earlier in the week on Tuesday, Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky objected during an attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent. Before that, Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas did the same on Friday of the previous week.

When asked by reporters who had orchestrated the effort, Rose said, "I have not seen any real coordination." He did say, however, that he had "communicated" with Roy last Friday and again on Wednesday.

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