Rep. Chip Roy became the man who delayed $19.1 billion in disaster aid to communities throughout the country on Friday.
House leaders tried to pass a multibillion-dollar disaster assistance measure, by unanimous consent, but the Texas Republican objected on the floor.
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Since House and Senate lawmakers have already left town for their Memorial Day recess, the objection likely causes a 10-day holdup in delivering aid that has already been delayed for five months amid cross-party sparring. The Senate passed the measure Thursday, with President Donald Trump’s blessing.
The House could still pass the bill by unanimous consent next week, if no lawmaker comes to the floor to object.
Communities still severely damaged by wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, lava flow and even typhoons have waited for this assistance as the president battled with Democrats about money to help Puerto Rico continue to rebuild following the Category 5 hurricanes that hit the U.S. territory in 2017.
Roy took issue with passing the measure without a roll call vote. He also complained that the legislation lacks offsets to prevent it from driving up the deficit and that congressional leaders left off billions of dollars in emergency funding Trump seeks for handling the inflow of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is a $19 billion bill that is not paid for when we’re racking up $100 million of debt per hour,” said Roy, a first-term congressman who was elected with the help of high-dollar campaign contributions from fiscally conservative groups like the House Freedom Caucus’ political arm. Roy is described by the conservative Club for Growth as “cut from the same cloth” as politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“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,” Roy said on the floor. “And we now are expected to continue to let the swamp continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren.”
Once a safe Republican seat, Roy’s district has become more competitive in the Trump era. The president won 52 percent of the vote there in 2016, down from Mitt Romney’s 60 percent in 2012. Roy won the district, which sits outside Austin, by less than 3 percentage points in the midterm election.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee earlier this year included the district on its list of initial targets for 2020 and jumped at the opportunity to trash Roy for blocking the disaster aid vote Friday, saying the Texas Republican has been “making it clear why this is a top tier Democratic pickup opportunity.”
The disaster relief bill was in doubt almost until the end. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) made a personal appeal to Trump during a call on Thursday afternoon, urging him to sign off on the plan to separate immigration aid from the disaster package.
According to four Republican sources, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) were in the room with Trump and advised the president against detaching his emergency immigration request from the disaster aid deal. But Perdue, a close Trump ally, prevailed.
Scott Bland, Melanie Zanona and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.