Pa. Rep. Scanlon: House Republicans have blocked ‘much needed’ disaster relief package

WASHINGTON — A single U.S. House Republican held up the passage of a sweeping $19.1 billion disaster aid package on Tuesday, marking the second time in a week that a lone GOP lawmaker has blocked the bill from advancing.

With most lawmakers back in their districts this week, the House held a “pro forma” session on Tuesday, where Democrats hoped to easily win unanimous consent to pass the long-stalled aid package, part of which would fund Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. But such a procedure requires that no lawmakers object.

One Republican did, further stalling the distribution of disaster aid.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the House floor, saying that if she felt the bill was “must-pass legislation,” she “should have called a vote on this bill before sending every member of Congress on recess for 10 days.”

The Senate passed the measure last Wednesday night, just before most House lawmakers left for the Memorial Day recess on Thursday.

The House attempted to adopt the package by voice vote Thursday, but Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, objected then, arguing that the package should have been considered more carefully before passage.

He also sought $4.4 billion for beefed up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, an amount President Trump has pushed for.

“House Republicans have blocked much needed disaster relief — again,” U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-6th District, fumed on Twitter.

“It’s frustrating when people try to work in a bipartisan manner to achieve progress for the people — as House leadership did here — only to have someone throw a wrench in it for political reasons,” Scanlon said in an email. “The lives of real people and communities hang in the balance while Republicans continue to play games.”

The bipartisan bill “is for Americans picking up the pieces of their lives after devastating natural disasters. It is not a chip to be wagered in political gamesmanship or leveraged to make a point. People are suffering and need this assistance now,” U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, said after the House’s vote last week.

The House will convene for another “pro forma” session this Thursday, when they may attempt to pass the measure again. If another lawmaker objects, the House is expected to overwhelmingly pass the bipartisan bill when the full chamber reconvenes next week.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., urged his GOP colleagues to approve the bill on Tuesday.

“Millions of people are at risk,” he said. The aid package “needs to be passed as soon as possible for the welfare of our people in this country who have been attacked by natural disasters.”

In addition to hurricane-ravaged regions, the aid would go to areas devastated by wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes across the country.

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