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Second Republican Blocks $19B Disaster-Relief Bill

Funding for disaster relief has been put on hold yet again as another Republican lawmaker objected Tuesday to the approval of a $19.1 billion emergency spending package during an abbreviated legislative session.

WASHINGTON (CN) – Funding for disaster relief has been put on hold yet again as another Republican lawmaker objected Tuesday to the approval of a $19.1 billion emergency spending package during an abbreviated legislative session.

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2017, file photo, homes in the Cantera area are covered with FEMA tarps, where buildings from the Hato Rey area stand in the background in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A new law requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to investigate how it came to award Hurricane Maria relief contracts to a company with an unproven record. The Associated Press reported last year that the newly-formed contractor, Florida-based Bronze Star, LLC, won more than $30 million in FEMA contracts but never delivered the emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for repairs of damaged homes in Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

The long-awaited bill passed 85-8 in the Senate on Thursday but its journey through the House was halted the following day by Congressman Chip Roy, R-Texas.  

Roy cited the lack of $4.5 billion in funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall as his reason to disrupt the vote despite the fact that Trump expressed full support for the package without appropriations earmarked for the wall on the southern border.  

On Tuesday, Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky picked up where Roy left off and said he would not allow the bill to be passed under special procedures that require unanimous agreement among all House members. He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for not taking a formal roll-call vote ahead of Congress’ Memorial Day recess.

Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland urged Republicans to stop obstructing the bill.  

“This needs to be passed as soon as possible to protect the welfare of the people who have been attacked by natural disasters,” Hoyer said Tuesday on the House floor.

Massie’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon and the lawmaker did not go into detail from the House floor as to why he opposed the measure.

It will be considered again on Thursday during another “pro forma” session — one with few lawmakers present – while most members remain on recess.

Last week, Roy expressed frustration that fellow lawmakers were not present on Capitol Hill to consider the bill, which was expected to pass by a unanimous consent voice vote. It only takes one lawmaker objecting to that process for a vote to be upended.

“We’re not elected to have things pass through consent without debate,” Roy told CNN.

Debate over federal funding for victims of disasters all over the United States has been swirling for months.

The proposed package includes appropriations to help recovery from flooding in the Midwest, massive hurricane damage throughout Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Puerto Rico, and devastating wildfires that killed more than 50 people in California.

Legislators have locked horns over the bill since January when Republicans in the Senate expressed apprehension about giving Puerto Rico additional funding to rebuild from hurricane damage. Tensions continued to ramp up well into April when the president inserted himself into the debate on Twitter, at one point falsely claiming that Puerto Rico received $91 billion in relief funding when in fact the island has only been allocated $41 billion for recovery efforts.

The bill will come up for yet another House vote on Thursday during another abbreviated, pro forma session. If there is an objection, the vote will be held during a full, recorded session next week – a few days after hurricane season officially kicks off on June 1.  

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Categories / Government, National, Politics

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