The Democratic-led U.S. House last week passed a $19 billion disaster-aid package that will bring critically needed relief to areas walloped by natural disasters, including Puerto Rico, still reeling after being devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the Panama City area, ravaged by Hurricane Michael a year ago.

The House’s 354-58 vote came about two weeks after the Senate endorsed the bill by an 85-8 tally, and capped months of negotiations and bickering, partly driven by $4.5 billion sought by GOP lawmakers to deal with the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. President Donald Trump, despite not obtaining the money for his border initiatives, enacted the measure on Thursday. Washington will pay for it the way Washington pays for most things these days — by padding the debt. After all, what’s another $19 billion atop $22 trillion in debt among friends.

This is good news because the stricken areas sorely need this aid. Besides the Panhandle and residents of Puerto Rico, recipients include flooded farmers in the Midwest and military families in Florida and Nebraska. And many Florida residents rely on one byproduct of the bill: a temporary renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program, the plurality of whose customers reside in Florida.

It is unfortunate that Congress took this long to get this done, especially since the House voted on the first version back in January. But the delay since the Senate’s action, which drew ire from lawmakers of both parties, deserves some context.

After the Senate vote, three House Republicans — Reps. Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and John Rose of Tennessee — blocked the House from taking action. They did so because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on adopting it by a process called unanimous consent.

As Ian Thompson of the ACLU explains, “Unanimous consent allows for a fast-tracking of the tedious and time-consuming aspects of the legislative process. The key to unanimous consent is that it can only be used when all members agree. If even one member objects, that’s it. Deal off!”

Now, if this measure was as necessary and time sensitive as was billed, particularly after lawmakers had batted it around for four months, Pelosi could have put it up for a roll call vote immediately after the Senate approved it. Yet she didn’t. She instead allowed House members to take a 10-day recess for the week of Memorial Day, apparently working off the assumption that those left behind would unanimously approve. It was arrogant on Pelosi’s part to presume that the House would simply fall in line, especially after Democrats bitterly fought to remove the money for immigration reform.

Still, taxpayers should know where their representatives stand in doling out every penny of it. Although she arguably botched shepherding this through, either by allowing the recess or not compromising on immigration funding, one might think Pelosi would thank Roy, Massie and Rose for ensuring voters know where 30% of the House GOP caucus stands.

 

This editorial originally appeared in the Lakeland Ledger.