House fails to pass $19 billion disaster relief bill after GOP lawmaker objects

The Senate passed the measure, which President Donald Trump has backed, Thursday evening in a 85-8 vote after a bipartisan deal was struck.
Image: Lanni Bailey and a team from Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue enter a flooded house to pull out several cats during flooding of the Missouri River near Glenwood
A team enters a flooded house to pull out several cats during the flooding of the Missouri River near Glenwood, Iowa, on March 18.Passport Aerial / Reuters

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By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday failed to pass the Senate-passed $19 billion bill providing disaster aid funding to parts of the United States hit by hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes and wildfires after a Republican lawmaker objected.

The House tried to pass the measure during a pro forma session by unanimous consent, since most lawmakers had left for a weeklong Memorial Day recess the day before. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, objected, saying the bill didn't address the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and that it was not paid for.

"Our nation is strong enough, and compassionate enough, to have a responsive and fiscally responsive approach to help people who are hurting in the wake of natural disasters," he said.

It was unclear what would happen next. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement that he would be "discussing a path forward with Members on both sides of the aisle, and we will take action as early as next week when the House meets again during pro forma." If that does not happen, action might wait until the chamber returns next month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted "House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill," in a statement that called it "an act of staggering political cynicism."

The Senate passed the bill Thursday evening in a 85-8 vote after a deal was struck among negotiators. President Donald Trump signed off on the parameters of the agreement Thursday afternoon, which excludes the $4.5 billion in border funding that the White House and the Republicans kept demanding.

According to a breakdown of the bill, it would provide about $900 million to Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. That money would go toward nutrition assistance and a community development block grant, both of which were key Democratic priorities.

The bill also includes a provision that would require the Trump administration to make almost $9 billion in previously withheld aid available to Puerto Rico, according to a summary provided by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Funding for Puerto Rico had long been a sticking point in negotiations because Trump was opposed to giving the territory more aid. In April, he falsely claimed on Twitter that “Puerto Rico got 91 billion dollars for the hurricane" when the federal government had only allocated $40 billion for the island's recovery and most of it hasn't yet arrived.