Central Texas congressman Roy singlehandedly blocks disaster relief
Austin American-Statesman (TX)
WASHINGTON 2019--WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman Republican from Hays County, single-handedly brought a House disaster relief funding bill to a halt Friday, objecting to a bill that would have jump-started $4 billion in grants for Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, had been working to get the long-delayed bill passed quickly ahead of hurricane season, which begins June 1.
The stunning turn of events came as most members of Congress had already left Washington for the Memorial Day recess and after the Senate on Thursday passed the bill 85-8. House leaders had agreed to move the bill Friday under a quick procedural rule that required unanimous consent of those in the chamber. The House earlier in the month approved a different version of the bill 257-150.
But Roy objected -- and one dissent was all it took to derail the unanimous consent vote.
"Today I stood to object to the unanimous consent of a $19.1 billion emergency supplemental bill that has been languishing for over eight months because Speaker Pelosi would rather play politics on impeachment than do the work of the people," Roy said in a statement.
"I objected primarily because had I not, Congress would have passed into law a bill that spends a significant amount of tax payer money without members of Congress even being present in our nation's capitol to vote on it."
Roy complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., knew the bill would be coming but still elected to recess the House. "I stayed in D.C. to object because this kind of swampy practice is what Texans elected me to stand against," he said. Although it is used infrequently, the practice of moving a funding bill under unanimous consent happens when leaders of both parties agree to it.
[email protected] tried to spend $19 billion without a vote after sending the entire House home for vacation. [email protected] stayed in DC and objected to these shenanigans. Chip is a courageous warrior and we need more like him.pic.twitter.com/3PKU1QZnHD
-- Jim DeMint (@JimDeMint)May 24, 2019
Roy is a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who voted for the bill on Thursday. By objecting, Roy delayed the bill being approved until the first week of June when lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.
The bill has $19 billion in relief for communities affected by disasters, including $900 million for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico -- funding that had been a sticking point for President Donald Trump before the president agreed to it this week and tweeted that he would sign the bill.
The $4 billion in funding for Texas had already been approved in 2018 but had not been distributed due to a holdup on the regulations and guidelines for the funding by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Office of Management and Budget.
In the Senate, Cornyn authored a provision that would require the government to release the funds within 90 days of the bill being signed.
Anticipating House approval, Cornyn on Friday morning released a statement that said, "Hurricane season is a week away, and Texans still have not received the resources Congress and HUD approved after Harvey. With the latest disaster bill approved, the time for excuses is over. The acting director (of the Office of Management and Budget) must release these funds which Texans desperately need to rebuild as soon as possible."
Cornyn's office did not immediately have a response to Roy's action.
In the House, both Republicans and Democrats from Texas, including Houston-area lawmakers U.S. Reps. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston and Randy Weber, R- Friendswood, and Central Texas members U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, Michael McCaul, R-Austin and Bill Flores, R-Waco, signed onto a House bill May 15 that would have released the funding for Texas and other disaster-impacted areas 60 days from the president signing it.
"Hurricane season starts in two weeks," said the lawmakers in a joint statement with members from other states affected by disasters. "Our communities continue to wait for the funds needed to recover and rebuild from past storms, funds that should have gone toward rebuilding and preparing for the next storms in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico. Our legislation is a common-sense ask: Release the funding already appropriated; grant our communities the resources needed to rebuild and recover."
Democrats were quick to condemn Roy. "Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fires destroy homes, devastate families and take lives," said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic PAC. "Texans shouldn't have to suffer these tragedies and then be forced to overcome another disaster like Republican Congressman Chip Roy."
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