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For The Third Time In A Week, A Lone Republican Has Blocked $19 Billion In Disaster Aid

Communities across the country struggling to recover from natural disasters will have to wait a bit longer for federal relief.

Posted on May 30, 2019, at 4:36 p.m. ET

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Activists march calling for support of Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Sept. 23, 2018, in Los Angeles.

WASHINGTON — A single Republican blocked a major aid bill from passing the House on Thursday afternoon, meaning the bill will continue to languish in Congress until next week, when representatives return to Washington.

The bill was brought up in the House by unanimous consent (meaning members don’t have to record their votes), but Rep. John Rose of Tennessee objected, marking the third time in a week a Republican has stopped the bill from passing. The bill has already passed the Senate.

The bill will provide aid to communities across the country hit by hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters over the past three years, including Puerto Rico. It came together late last week after President Trump dropped his demand that the bill include $4.1 billion in border security funding.

But the deal came together so last minute that when it passed the Senate, by a vote of 85–8, the House had already left for the Memorial Day long weekend. They were scheduled to be off all this week as well. Without members present for a normal roll call vote, House Democrats tried to use unanimous consent to pass the bill.

Republican leadership signed off, but some rank-and-file members did not.

Last Friday it was Texas Rep. Chip Roy who blocked consent, saying the bill was fiscally irresponsible and did not contain needed border security funding. Then on Tuesday, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky objected on procedural grounds, saying it should take a formal vote to authorize $19 billion in funding.

On Thursday, Rose cited both rationales, saying the bill was too expensive and also Congress should be present to vote on it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Republicans of sabotaging the bill “in an act of staggering political cynicism.” But even some Republicans have grown angry at their colleagues.

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” Rep. Austin Scott tweeted after the bill was blocked Tuesday. Scott’s Georgia district was hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018, causing major damage to commodity crops.

Pelosi is expected to call up the bill for a vote next week and it should pass easily. President Trump has said he will sign it into law.

The bill has already been delayed months due in large part to squabbling over aid for Puerto Rico. Trump had objected to including funding to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. He eventually caved, and the final bill contains $600 million for Puerto Rico food stamp programs, which began running out of money in February, plus $304 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to rebuild homes and infrastructure.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.