House Republicans again block passage of disaster aid bill

For the second time in a week, a House Republican has blocked the passage of a more than $19 billion disaster relief bill, further delaying the approval of funds that cleared the Senate last week with overwhelming bipartisan support.

House Democrats attempted to pass the bill via unanimous consent on Tuesday, but Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky objected. Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia was on the House floor standing next to Massie for the objection. It only takes one person to object in order to block a bill from passing immediately through unanimous consent.

The moment occurred during a brief pro forma session, in which the House gavels in for only a few minutes whenever most representatives are out of town for recess.

Massie told reporters after voicing his objection that he was trying to “stop legislative malpractice,” by preventing legislation from passing without all House members present to take a vote.

“I’m just here to stop legislative malpractice today. Passing a $19 billion bill with no recorded vote is legislative malpractice,” the lawmaker said.

The Senate had passed the bill 85-8 on Thursday, just hours after the House broke for a weeklong recess and most representatives had already left Washington.

Massie said he also opposed the bill on fiscal grounds for the high price tag.

“Some people would say this is not a convenient or polite time to talk about the debt and the deficit,” Massie said. “My question to them is when is the time? Because I’ve been here six years and we still don’t have a plan for how to pay for things like disaster relief.”

On Friday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, was in Washington to object to the legislation when House Democrats first tried to pass it.

House Democrats will have another chance at another brief session on Thursday, then again next week when the House returns on Monday.

The opposition so far is coming from a small group of conservatives in the House, rather than GOP leadership. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said earlier Tuesday that the two top Republicans in the House — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana — had both agreed to the plan to pass the aid measure.

A GOP aide confirmed that McCarthy and Scalise were on board.

A second Republican aide said that even though GOP leaders didn’t object to unanimous consent, they had warned Democrats at the end of last week that some Republicans would object and they pressed Democratic leaders to keep the House in session to hold a vote, rather than risk letting the legislation get stalled over the recess.

The objections are also bucking the wishes of President Donald Trump, who has publicly expressed support for the bill, even though it doesn’t include funding for the border as he requested.

Hoyer, the House majority leader, forcefully urged Republicans on Tuesday not to object.

“Frankly, I cannot understand why any member would object to giving relief to so many millions of our citizens who have been badly damaged by natural disasters,” he told reporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, swiftly condemned the latest objection, saying in a statement that “the heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer criticized his fellow conservatives in the House on Tuesday who opposed the disaster aid bill because it lacked border crisis funding, which was stripped out of the package at the last minute to preserve the legislation and allow it to pass.

“I’ve always thought what’s not in the bill is a bad reason not to support good things,” the North Dakota Republican said. “I’ve seen low-hanging fruit around here used as leverage. That’s never made sense to me. I just think that we can do a lot better by passing what’s good rather than vote ‘no’ waiting for the perfect.”

Cramer, who served three terms in the House before being elected to the Senate last year, said objections by a few tend to reflect a greater number of members.

“A lot gets made of the fact that one person did this. The one person that did it obviously represents several others who would have done it if not for them,” said Cramer.

CNN’s Ted Barrett, Sunlen Serfaty and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.