For the second time in less than a week, a grandstanding Republican congressman has held up more than $19 billion in bipartisan-backed disaster relief funds for victims of Hurricanes Maria, Michael, and Florence, as well as states ravaged by wildfires and catastrophic flooding.
Speaking on the House floor on Tuesday, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie objected to Democrats’ plan to approve the disaster relief bill with a voice vote while the House was out of session—circumstances that allow a single congressperson to stall an entire bill—after the Senate voted 85 to 8 in favor of the measure before breaking for recess themselves. The bill was first introduced in the House back in January.
“If the Speaker of this House felt that this was must-pass legislation, the Speaker of this House should have called a vote on this legislation before sending its members on recess for 10 days,” Massie, a freshman Freedom Caucus member, said.
Massie’s objection comes just days after Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy similarly blocked a voice vote on the same bill, calling the Democrats’ plan to expedite its passage a “very swampy thing to do.”
Democrats, eager to highlight the fact that lone Republicans have now twice blocked billions of dollars intended for disaster victims, immediately pounced on Massie’s move.
“The heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement shortly after Massie blocked the bill. “Just days after sabotaging a bipartisan and bicameral bill to provide urgently-needed relief to millions of American families reeling from natural disasters, House Republicans have repeated their stunning act of obstruction—even after more deadly storms ravaged our country over the weekend.”
“One Republican pops up after the next to prevent disaster-impacted areas from receiving the aid they so desperately need,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer added in his own statement.
Even some Republican lawmakers seemed fed up with their colleagues’ antics.
“This is yet another example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest,” GOP Sen. David Perdue tweeted. “It’s pathetic that some members have chosen this moment to grandstand & get into the national headlines.”
Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott also heaped criticism on his Republican peers, calling them “clowns” while predicting the bill would nevertheless pass and be signed into law.
Democrats will reportedly try to fast-track the relief bill one last time this week during another pro-forma session while the House is still out. Should that fail, they will have to wait until Congress is back in session to hold a full vote on the funding, ensuring that if it passes, President Trump won’t be able to sign the legislation into law until sometime in June.