Despite the fact that similar disaster aid bills passed through the US House before, lawmakers were not able to pass the legislation before a 10 day recess. The disaster aid bill has been under debate for months, and finally, last week the US Senate was able to get President Trump on board for a $19.1 billion disaster aid only package.
Failed to Pass Through the House
The House couldn’t get it done though, thanks to a few Republican holdouts hoping for more media attention. Congress has become so polarized that some members feel it’s more important to oppose the other party rather than work together to approve legislation for the good of the country.
According to The Fence Post, the US House GOP has now blocked disaster relief for the third time. A supplemental appropriations bill- which included aid for farmers that fell victim to natural disasters this year and last- was held back by a single Republican House member. The man responsible for blocking the bill this time was Representative John Rose (R-Tenn).
The supplemental appropriations bill already passed in the Senate. Now, the House will have to take on the disaster aid after the Memorial Day Break.
Costs Mounting, Disaster Recovery Slow
Brownfield Ag News also covered the House-blocked disaster aid bill. Without passage of the bill, costs are mounting and recovery is slow. Not only are lives at stake, but property, infrastructure and farmland have seen unparalleled devastation.
Southern states as far west as Texas and as far north as the Carolinas, along with U.S. Caribbean territories, suffered multiple hurricane hits; at one point it appeared half of California was burning. In mid-March, Winter Storm Ulmer lumbered out of the Pacific Northwest, dumped snow and rain, then literally overnight morphed into an historic “bomb cyclone” across a wide swath of the middle and upper Midwest. Ulmer brought record winds, record low temperatures, monster snowfalls and subsequent historic flooding along the Missouri River from the Dakotas to Mississippi.
With each passing day the cost of addressing all of the destruction is rising. Roads are gone, airports are flooded, towns are destroyed and many basic services like electricity and telephones aren’t back up yet. Many farmers and ranchers have no idea if they’ll ever be able to farm again. It’s terrible.
Three Times Blocked
Despite this, Congress is attempting to use these tragedies for political advantage. Conservative House Republicans are spending this time trying to embarrass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrats, rather than following through and getting aid to the citizens that need it.
The House had passed several disaster aid bills with bipartisan cooperation in recent months. President Donald Trump was bent on punishing Puerto Rico though, for mishandling federal aid in the past. The Senate argued on aid bills for nearly 8 months. Finally, right before their Memorial Day break, they were able to get Trump on board for a $19.1-billion disaster-aid-only package. The aid bill turned out to be nearly identical to the last House bill, which was approved by bipartisan vote.
To finally get the disaster aid bill approved, all the House needed to do was pass it through a “unanimous consent” motion. This allows the approval of a bill on a voice vote. This type of motion starts with the Speaker and minority leader’s approvals, but can be squashed by just one “nay” vote.
Freshman Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) objected to the bill two weeks ago. He claimed it was because the bill wasn’t paid for or offset through spending cuts and because Pelosi was “playing politics.” He also didn’t want to use unanimous consent rather than debate, and wanted the bill to include the Trump border money.
Days passed, and on May 28 the bill was brought back for a vote under unanimous consent. Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) was the one to squash it that time, saying that Pelosi was mishandling the bill. Then the third unanimous consent vote came up on May 20 and was blocked by Rose.
Scorn from Congress
Now the House is in recess for 10 days, and the people that desperately need the aid aren’t getting it. Brownfield Ag News reported that lawmakers from both parties and both chambers have been pummeling both Roy and Massie.
Ag Committee member Austin Scott (R-GA):
“Unfortunately, more clowns showed up today to once again delay disaster relief for the states and farmers devastated by the storms of 2018.”
Senator David Perdue (R-GA) tweeted:
“It’s pathetic that some members have chosen this moment to grandstand & get into the national headlines.”
And oddly, we haven’t heard much out of the White House.
What’s in the Bill?
Chris Clayton of DTNPF says the bill contained more than $3 billion in aid for farmers. The legislation would also waive adjusted gross income (AGI) caps for farmers under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which would provide aid to higher income farmers.
Other USDA programs would get relief from the disaster aid bill if passed. The Emergency Conservation Program could receive nearly $558 million and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program $435 million.
Don’t forget Puerto Rico, that would get $600 million for nutritional aid.
For communities affected by natural disasters, $600 million would be made available so the Economic Development Administration could fund development grants.
The Army Corps of Engineers would be getting $2.5 billion for flood and hurricane control, maintenance, repair and emergency operations.
Crop insurance for hemp would also be available from the USDA if the disaster aid bill had been passed.