Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay

Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay

A $19.1 billion disaster aid bill has been repeatedly tripped up in the House by conservative Republicans, creating an embarrassment for a House GOP coming under fire from Democrats and some of its own members for delaying a package meant to help stricken communities.

To make matters worse, the bipartisan package is being delayed as a series of tornadoes and floods devastate the Midwest and South.

“After more than four months of delay, it is absolutely outrageous that House Republicans are continuing to block passage of a disaster relief bill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill as Senate lags House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill as Senate lags On The Money: Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight | House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill | GOP senators, White House delay meeting on spending | Trump hits Fed over high interest rates MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to The Hill.

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“The floods and tornadoes of the last few days remind us of the cruelty of this unnecessary Republican obstructionism,” she added.

While the package doesn't include money for the most recent disasters, focusing instead on hurricanes and wildfires from last year, some of the funds are for federal disaster relief that could aid in recovery.

The timing has also elicited criticism from within the GOP, with some lawmakers directing their ire at the handful of conservatives blocking the legislation.

“It’s long past time Congress act to help Iowans in need, which is why I voted for and helped pass this critical disaster aid package in the Senate that has the support of the President,” Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles MORE (R-Iowa), said in a statement to The Hill Wednesday.

Flooding shut down a major interstate highway in Iowa on Wednesday, and residents in some parts of the state have had to deal with standing flood waters for more than two months.

The disaster aid bill came together quickly last week after months of haggling, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE withdrew a demand that the package include emergency funding for the Southern border. He also agreed to allow additional funding for Puerto Rico.

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The Senate passed the bill on May 23, and congressional leaders from both parties agreed to approve the measure in the House through unanimous consent, allowing lawmakers to head back to their districts for the Memorial Day recess.

But Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Texas) objected to the bill’s passage on Friday, blocking the House’s ability to use the fast-track procedure. He argued that the measure deserved a full vote, and decried its contribution to the growing national debt.

When Democrats brought the bill up again on Tuesday, Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive House conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes MORE (R-Ky.) blocked the measure, adding his objections to a planned extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire on Friday.

The delays come as the National Weather Service says flooding affecting eight states along the Mississippi River has been the longest since 1927, with flooding in the Arkansas River poised to break records.

House Democrats will try to pass the disaster bill again on Thursday by unanimous consent.

"I would wait to see what happens on Thursday," said Robert Donachie, a spokesman for Roy, suggesting the measure could be blocked for a third time.

Since the measure has enough votes to pass once the House is back in session next week, the best conservatives can do is delay its passage until then.

But with headlines proclaiming the country has been subjected to 500 tornadoes in the past 30 days — a near record — and flooding in Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas, the delay tactics by conservatives have prompted sharp rebukes from fellow Republicans.

“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018,” Rep Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottHouse approves much-delayed .1B disaster aid bill Third House Republican blocks disaster aid bill Republicans turn on each other amid disaster bill delay MORE (R-Ga.) tweeted on Tuesday.

Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerDemocrats set stage for next shutdown fight with wall-free spending bill Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight with wall-free spending bill Bottom line MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, called the legislative maneuvers a “political stunt.”

“As Republicans and as conservatives, we believe that there is no more important function for the federal government than to be there during disasters,” she said.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) called the moves “pathetic," and said they are an “example of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the national interest.”

On Wednesday, Roy tweeted that it was House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE’s (D-Calif.) responsibility to bring the House back into session early to allow for debate on the package.

Roy’s spokesman noted that the steps had been taken with the knowledge of GOP leadership, and played down the blowback from other Republicans.

“We understand that if you're a representative from Florida or Georgia, and you've been waiting for eight months, that it is upsetting,” Donachie said. “Obviously we want the money to go to those in need, but we want there to be a straight up-or-down vote.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  The case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE’s (R-Calif.) office did not respond to a request for comment.

For Democrats, the moves have created a political opening to hammer the GOP.

“The heartlessness of House Republicans knows no bounds,” Pelosi said Tuesday, pointing to the most recent weather events. “How many more communities need to suffer before Republicans end their political games?”