GOP blocks disaster bill again
Democrats attempted Tuesday to push an emergency disaster aid bill through Congress for a second time but met with a GOP objection, meaning it will likely be next week before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can muster the votes.
The objection was the latest hiccup for the $19.1 billion package, which lawmakers have been debating for months, but which only came together late last week.
After a deal was struck between Mrs. Pelosi, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, the Senate passed the bill Friday.
But Mrs. Pelosi had already sent her troops home for a 10-day vacation.
She was left to try to pass the bill during pro forma sessions when the floor is empty, and action requires unanimous consent and can be blocked by a single lawmaker.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, pleaded with colleagues Tuesday to pass the bill, saying millions of Americans had been “attacked” by natural disasters and were awaiting the money.
But Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, said if the matter was so urgent, Mrs. Pelosi would have handled it differently.
“If the speaker of this House felt this was must-pass legislation the speaker of this house should have called a vote before sending every member of the house on vacation for 10 days,” he said.
A similar objection was lodged by another Republican last week, preventing passage on Friday, too.
After the floor action, Mr. Massie told reporters that passing massive spending bills without holding a full vote of lawmakers was a bad precedent to set.
“The more often we let them get by with this, the more frequently they will do it, until basically all congressmen are employees of the Capitol Visitor Center,” he said.
He said Democratic leaders could prove how important the bill is by calling members back to vote on it.
“I feel strongly about having a vote. The question is, those who feel strongly about passing a bill, why are they home on vacation and playing golf and doing fundraisers?” he wondered.
Mr. Hoyer, though, dismissed calls to bring House lawmakers back into town to vote on the bill, signaling speed wasn’t that important.
Instead, he complained that a deal signed off on by leaders of both parties, including President Trump, couldn’t sail through.
“Very frankly three or four days is not going to make a difference. What makes the difference is the inability to come to a rational agreement, which we have done, and not have somebody object simply because they have the power to do so,” the congressman said.
He said the bill will be passed “overwhelmingly” once Congress returns.
In addition to the disaster bill, Mr. Massie also objected to the passage of a bill to extend the federal flood insurance program.