FEMA

A Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery center staffed with recovery specialists from FEMA, US Small Business Administration, State and other agencies in Texas on September 9, 2017.

As residents from Florida through Louisiana to California await federal disaster relief funding, a libertarian advocacy group defended Kentucky Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie after he blocked an attempt by Democrats on Tuesday to pass a $19 billion disaster relief package through a unanimous voice vote while many members weren’t present, having been dismissed on recess.

Massie said on the House floor that if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, felt the disaster relief package needed to pass, she should have called a vote on the bills instead of dismissing Congress on recess.

FreedomWorks, the nonprofit advocacy group, also defended U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, who blocked a similar attempt last week.

“FreedomWorks stands by Reps. Roy and Massie’s recent objections to the disaster relief package which House Democratic leadership attempted to push through without debate, a floor vote, or even more than a few members present at all,” Jason Pye, FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, said in a statement. “This sort of behavior by House leadership is emblematic of the swamp culture that Reps. Roy and Massie came to Washington to stop.”

“The funding in the disaster relief package is not offset and would increase the U.S. national debt,” Pye said. “Americans deserve fiscal accountability from their representatives in Washington, and the fact that this bill would have advanced without a vote demonstrates that Congress is more concerned with getting out of town for the long weekend than doing the job they were elected to do.”

Approved in an 85-8 vote by the U.S. Senate last Thursday, the package includes assistance for victims of natural disasters across the country since 2017, ranging from Midwest floods to California wildfires to hurricanes in the Southeast, most notably Category 5 Hurricane Michael, which stormed through North Florida last August.

Pelosi accused House Republicans of being “heartless” and trying to prevent relief from going to needy families who have been hit by disasters. Roy tweeted out that he’s ready to vote on legislation as soon as Pelosi brings it up for one.

Sarah Anderson, federal affairs manager at FreedomWorks, told the Center Square that politicians will often put provisions into disaster relief bills that are not directly related to disaster relief. To pass this without question, she said, they frame the bill as necessary for relief, then do not provide legislators with enough time to read it. Not bringing it to a vote, she said, is something new and even more problematic.

Anderson said that legislation should not be debated in secret, then put up for a quick vote. Rather, she said it’s Congress’s job to openly debate legislation and to vote on it. She said that any disaster relief spending has to be counteracted with spending cuts elsewhere.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.