Citing the bill’s omission of $4.5 billion for the border and fiscal concerns, Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy denied the House’s Democratic leaders request for unanimous consent to pass it without a recorded vote. The Senate passed the bill Thursday, 85-8, hours after a deal was announced.
The package would send aid to victims of Western wildfires, Midwestern flooding and hurricanes that hit the Southeast and Puerto Rico―as well as Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; and Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, both in North Carolina.
But it appears, after Roy’s objection, a vote will have to wait until lawmakers return from the Memorial Day recess.
“If I do not object, Congress will have passed into law a bill that spends $19 billion in taxpayer money without members being present in our nation’s capitol to vote on it,” Roy said in a brief House floor remarks. “Secondly it’s a bill that includes nothing to address the clear national emergency and humanitarian crisis on our southern border.”
The House’s No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer, said afterward that the House would take action as early as next week and predicted the bill would pass with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. He vented frustration at House Republicans in the meantime.
“After Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worked hard to secure bipartisan agreement on a package of emergency relief for Americans experiencing the aftermath of natural disasters, I am outraged that House Republicans chose to block its swift consideration today,” Hoyer said in a statement.
The White House appeared to have cleared the way on Thursday by dropping a demand that had complicated negotiations, for $4.5 billion for Department of Homeland Security operations at the border. Lawmakers were upbeat afterward, saying that they expected Trump would sign the deal.
“I want to thank President Trump for breaking the gridlock and getting this disaster relief to Americans who so desperately need it,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Thursday in a statement. “We have been working on this package for several months, and I am pleased to say that help is finally on the way.”
In this latest deal, the Air Force was allotted a total of $1.67 billion, the Navy and Marine Corps a total of $981 million, the Coast Guard a total $477 million, the Army National Guard $42 million, and the Department of Veterans Affairs $3 million. Appropriators offered a mix of military construction and operations and maintenance funding, some with the flexibility to be spent over several years.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, a senior Senate Armed Services Committee member, said on Thursday that the defense portion of the bill was, “as high as it could be,” and that she would be working with appropriators to net more to respond to Offutt’s evolving needs.
“Like a lot of things in Washington, you get down to crunch time and people are more willing to try to get something resolved,” she said. “There was a give and take on both sides.”
The House passed a separate $17.2 billion package in May, but Trump urged Republicans to vote against it over what he saw as excessive funding for Puerto Rico, and the GOP-controlled Senate did not take up that bill.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.