Disaster bill blocked by single GOP lawmaker for third time

For the third time in two weeks, a lone Republican congressman single-handedly blocked the passage of a multi-billion-dollar aid package destined for disaster-hit communities across the U.S.

Following the lead of fellow House Republicans Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Rep. John Rose of Tennessee objected to a vote on the $19.1-billion legislation during a pro forma session Thursday. Like Roy and Massie, Rose cited the nation’s growing deficit and the fact that the vote was held during a congressional break and without a roll call on the House floor.

“I think most Americans would view it as a trick if such important legislation that permits $20 billion — and their money — can proceed through the House while virtually every member is back home in their district,” Rose said Thursday.

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If enacted, the disaster package would deliver aid to help Puerto Ricans facing food assistance cuts, farmers in the South still struggling after Hurricane Michael ravaged their crops last year, wildfire victims in California and communities in Midwestern states like Iowa and Missouri recovering from devastating floods.

First introduced by House Democrats in January, the legislation has stalled for months over initial hesitation by Senate Republicans to approve more hurricane relief funds for Puerto Rico, which President Trump has publicly and privately opposed.

Last week, the White House departed from its rigid stance stance and the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming 85 to 8 vote, ending months of gridlock. But pro forma House votes on the legislation while most lawmakers are in their home districts have been derailed by the objections Roy and Massie raised.

Democratic leaders have also faulted the president for what has so far proven to be an elusive agreement on disaster aid, one of the rare bipartisan issues in Congress.

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