WASHINGTON – A Republican House member on Friday blocked final passage of a long-delayed disaster relief package, ensuring that communities and farmers ravaged by natural disasters would have to wait for the measure to reach President Donald Trump's desk.
Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman from Texas and former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, used the power of a single lawmaker to object to a procedural vote that would have allowed the Senate-approved $19.1 billion package to pass through the House without the full chamber present.
"This is a very swampy thing to do, have a vote on a Friday heading into Memorial Day weekend," Roy said before heading to the House floor. "We could have done our jobs yesterday, when we had 435 members of Congress."
Under congressional rules, passage would have to be unanimous, since most lawmakers left Washington on Thursday for a weeklong recess. When freshman Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., asked for unanimous consent on the package, Roy objected. In a brief speech, he said he was concerned not only about the process but also about the decision to leave out the White House's request for about $4.5 billion for the southwestern border. He said the overall size of the aid package was fiscally irresponsible.
The House adjourned, four minutes after it convened, until Tuesday when it will hold another procedural session. Shalala called the decision "tragic" as she left the House floor, accusing Roy of "holding hostage thousands of people" who needed the aid.
The disaster relief vote may have to wait until the full chamber returns in the first week of June, although House leaders could try again next week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the "last-minute sabotage" an "act of staggering political cynicism." Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said the House could take action again as early as next week.
Roy said he was not sure if he would return Tuesday to again block the procedural maneuver but said he was confident that other members shared his concerns and would be willing to return to Washington and block it.