Published: Sun, May 26, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

US House Does Not Pass Disaster Relief Package

US House Does Not Pass Disaster Relief Package

The Senate passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill on Thursday to aid various states afflicted by hurricanes and other natural disasters throughout the previous year.

The Senate had passed the legislation on Thursday in an 85-8 vote after lawmakers agreed to remove some $4.5 billion in contentious emergency border funding that the Trump administration had sought. According to congressional rules, if a single member objects to this, the bill is blocked until the rest of the House returns. House leaders had planned to use a parliamentary move to advance it to the president on Friday - but Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas objected. "We must pass this bicameral, bipartisan bill and we will keep working to get it through the House and onto the President's desk".

Roy's surprise rejection of the bill comes as many lawmakers already left town for the Memorial Day Recess, meaning the relief funding will likely be stalled for another 10 days.

It took months for Congress and the White House to strike a deal, as negotiations between Republicans and Democrats stalled over funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border and how to rebuild Puerto Rico two years after Hurricane Maria hit the USA territory. The White House, Democrats and many Republicans have shown a willingness to raise the spending caps to secure a budget agreement and avoid a government shutdown at the end of September, but Roy is among a group of at least 40 House Republicans who vocally oppose such a deal.

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Roy complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., knew the bill would be coming but still elected to recess the House. Since then, Trump has claimed, incorrectly, that the US territory had received billions of dollars more in aid than it actually had; some reports suggested the president had attempted to withhold money that had already been allocated to the island. He is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "It is a bill that includes nothing to address the worldwide emergency and humanitarian crisis we face at our southern border", Roy said.

Democrats said the House might try to again pass the measure next week during a session, like Friday's, that would otherwise be pro forma. "Every House Republican needs to answer to the American people why they are standing in the way".

Once signed, the disaster aid bill would provide billions of dollars to help Puerto Rico continue to recover from two deadly 2017 hurricanes as well as funding to help states and territories rebuild after a series of destructive storms and wildfires in 2018 and the first few months of 2019.

"Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need", Pelosi said in a statement.

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