Clarification: The initial version of this story said a unanimous consent request requires all members present in the House chamber to vote “yes”. A unanimous consent request only requires that no members object to it. The story has been updated.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) on Friday demonstrated the power that minority party members still have in the House of Representatives.
In objecting to a unanimous consent request to pass a $19.1 billion disaster aid package for victims of wildfires, flooding and hurricanes, Roy not only potentially delayed the measure until June but also bucked both Republican leadership and President Trump, who now supports the bill.
Roy said opposes the bill because it would add to the national debt and does not include $4.4 billion in additional spending for federal operations along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump previously had requested. The White House dropped that request to allow the bill to move forward.
Normally, the House requires a simple majority to pass legislation. But if House leaders want to speed up the process, they can significantly limit the debate or the amendment process via a simple majority vote. If they do that, though, the bar for bill passage can be higher. When the House agrees to “suspend the rules” to pass legislation, it then requires two-thirds vote for final passage. It can also pass bills via unanimous consent, which requires that no members present in the House chamber object.
That’s what they tried to do here . . . but Roy wasn’t on board.
By objecting to a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, Roy delayed the likely House passage of the aid package. But he did so after many members had already left town for the Memorial Day recess, in effect delaying the aid from getting to victims potentially until sometime after Congress reconvenes on June 3. (The House will try to pass the package again via unanimous consent during a “pro forma” session on Tuesday.)
Objecting to unanimous consent requests for legislation with broad bipartisan support after most members have left town is nothing new, but it often occurs in the Senate where the process is often more drawn out.
In 2013, House Republicans pulled three bills from consideration that required a two-thirds vote for passage just before the August recess. And last year, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) temporarily stalled a criminal justice bill by refusing a unanimous consent request to allow the Senate to expedite debate on the bill.
In stalling the disaster aid package, Roy appears to be taking a page out his former boss’s playbook: In 2013, Roy was chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) when Cruz led the charge to defund the Affordable Care Act, leading to a 16-day partial government shutdown.
When the government reopened in October 2013, the Affordable Care Act was still fully funded.
Amber Phillips contributed to this report.