Lone Republican blocks huge U.S. disaster relief package


Chip Roy is a freshman congressman from Texas who just blipped onto the national political radar with a controversial move.

For months, lawmakers have been haggling behind the scenes over the disaster aid bill in response to hurricanes in the southeastern US, severe flooding in the Midwest, devastating wildfires in California and other events.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday, and the House had planned to send it to Trump on Friday.

Because the House was in a pro forma session, the only option for quick passage was to obtain the unanimous consent of all House members.

"After President Trump and Senate Republicans delayed disaster relief for more than four months, it is deeply disappointing that House Republicans are now making disaster victims wait even longer to get the help they need", said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) in a statement. The House is set to have another "pro forma" session - one with few lawmakers present - on Tuesday, at which time they plan to again try to pass the legislation by unanimous consent. According to congressional rules, if a single member objects to this, the bill is blocked until the rest of the House returns.

"There's no reason" why the bill should not have also included "the quite modest $4.4 billion" the White House requested for the wall, Roy said on the House floor.

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Roy objected to the disaster relief bill because the $19 billion legislation did not include funding for President Donald Trump's long-sought border wall. "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", he added. He also said the package should include money for the Department of Homeland Security to address immigration issues a the southwest border.

The Senate reached an agreement on the legislation on Thursday after months of negotiations, including strong objections from President Trump over funding in the legislation for Puerto Rico. They return June 3.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the action as an example of Republican obstructionism.

Congress regularly approves "emergency" disaster aid bills without any cuts to other programs, despite objections from some conservative lawmakers.

Senator Lindsey Graham has shown great loyalty to President Donald Trump over the past two years or so, particularly in what critics see as a shameless and diametric rhetorical difference from what the SC senator said of then-candidate Trump during the GOP primaries.

"Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need", the California Democrat said.