Second Republican stalls House passage of disaster-relief bill

Second Republican stalls House passage of disaster-relief bill

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Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), shown at the Young Americans for Liberty Convention in Philadelphia on April 13, said in a floor speech on Tuesday that passing the disaster-relief bill when most lawmakers are home in their districts would amount to “legislative malpractice.” (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – For the second time in four days, the House of Representatives has failed to pass a $19.1 billion disaster-aid package for states and territories that have been devastated by tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, due to a Republican lawmaker’s objection to a unanimous consent request.

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky lodged the objection at the Tuesday afternoon pro forma session.

In a brief floor speech, Massie said if passage were a legislative priority House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should have arranged a vote prior to the one-week Memorial Day recess, which began on Friday.

Massie said passing the bill when most lawmakers are back at home in their districts would have amounted to “legislative malpractice.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) pleaded with Republicans not to object to the bill, saying “millions of people are at risk.”

A unanimous consent request can be defeated by a single objection.

At the time, fewer than a half-a-dozen members were in the chamber.

It is possible the House could make a third attempt at passage during the pro forma session on Thursday. If that fails, the bill will not receive a vote until the full House returns to Washington next Tuesday.

A pro forma session is when several members show up and the chamber gavels-in and gavels-out.

The Constitution requires Congress to be in session a certain amount of days each year.

The Senate passed the disaster-relief bill last week.

The legislation is the product of months of negotiations between the administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The impasse was broken on Thursday when Trump agreed to forgo his insistence that the legislation provide money for border security.

The legislation provides agricultural relief for farmers. It includes money for veterans’ hospitals, watershed and wastewater infrastructure needs, military construction projects, and resources to restore transportation needs.

The legislation provides $600 million in nutrition assistance and $304 million in community development grants for Puerto Rico, which Democrats had requested.

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