Representative Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, blocked the $19.1 billion federal disaster package, which had passed the Senate last week and was zipping through the House by unanimous consent without a recorded vote because many members had already left D.C. for the district work week. Then Roy objected because it would add to the country’s debt and it left out $4.4 billion in additional spending for protection along the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump has said he would sign the bill, thus Roy received immediate criticism for his move, including from Republicans from disaster-hit areas where millions of Americans have been awaiting federal help for months.
Why This Matters: Disaster relief is still being politicized and the victims must now wait until Congress returns on June 3 for a full House vote. The White House initially insisted on the funding for the border crisis and on blocking additional funding for Puerto Rico but backed down. Roy has been a thorn in the side of Congressional Republicans, promising to stay true to his Republican principles when he got to Washington. Congressman Roy is also objecting to a compromise deal under which the White House and Congress seemed willing to raise the spending caps to secure a budget agreement — this could be a prelude to a government shutdown at the end of September.
- Roy is a freshman Congressman who won with only 50.2% of the vote, but previously he was chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz when in 2013 Cruz helped force a partial government shutdown.
- The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 8 on Thursday, and then President Trump tweeted that the bill had his “total approval” even without the additional border security funding.
- Puerto Rico would receive more than $1 billion under the package including $600 million in emergency funding for the food stamp program and more than $300 million for infrastructure repairs.
This is unlikely to be the last disaster bill that Congress will need to pass before the next election. As Vox put it, “[p]eople’s efforts to rebuild have been left hanging in the balance while the partisan squabbles continue. And the politicization of this fight doesn’t bode well for the next time Americans may need help after a natural disaster, either.”