WASHINGTON — A single House Republican blocked a major aid package Friday in an unexpected move that will delay $19.1 billion worth of funds to help communities recover from natural disasters.
The Senate passed the bill Thursday, and President Donald Trump had agreed to sign it after backing down on demands that it include border security funding. But the deal came together so late in the week that most members of the House of Representatives had already left for the long Memorial Day weekend.
That meant a normal vote was not possible, so the House attempted to pass the bill through unanimous consent. When the moment came, freshman Rep. Chip Roy of Texas rose to object to unanimous passage.
Roy said he supported disaster aid but argued the package was not done in a “fiscally responsible” way.
“This is a $19 billion bill that is not paid for when we are racking up $100 million of debt per hour. This is a bipartisan problem, to be honest, and it’s a problem that we should solve in Congress rather than ignore,” he said.
Roy also objected to the lack of $4.4 billion in border security funding that the Trump administration had requested.
Without enough members in Washington, DC, to pass the bill through a majority vote, it now remains stalled. The House was not expected to sit again until early June. A spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would be announcing next steps shortly.
In a statement, Pelosi blamed House Republicans for “last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill in an act of staggering political cynicism.”
However, a House GOP staffer said the party was ready to agree to unanimous consent, but Roy himself objected.
The bill would provide aid to communities across the United States that have been hit by hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters over the past three years. It includes $900 million in support for Puerto Rico. The bill had received bipartisan support in the Senate, where it easily passed 85–8.
Puerto Rico is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The US territory began running out of funding for its food stamp program at the end of February, affecting benefits for more than a million Puerto Ricans. The bill would provide an additional $600 million for the island’s food stamp program, but that is on hold until Congress returns.