Why I Objected To Unanimous Consent On The Disaster Supplemental
During my short tenure as a member of Congress, I’ve found that the American people’s characterization of Washington as “broken,” or as our president famously coined in 2016, the “swamp,” is completely accurate. There is an inevitability, of sorts, that dominates the thinking and favors excuses over rational and deliberate action.
Last week, I objected to a “unanimous consent” request on a $19.1 billion-dollar emergency supplemental bill that has been languishing in these halls for months. I knew full well when I objected that it would be characterized by many Democrats as not caring about those suffering in the wake of natural disasters, or by some in my own party comfortable with the status quo as a “political stunt.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I favor moving forward a targeted measure that is paid for and it should have been done long ago.
Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has not prioritized moving this legislation in the first 5 months of this Congress. Knowing the Senate was working to pass it last Thursday, the speaker adjourned midday rather than ensuring members were in town to vote. Instead, the speaker took the unusual step of orchestrating a plan to bring it up in a so-called “pro forma” session on Friday when no one was in town.
I objected because, had I not, Congress would have passed into law a bill that spends over $19 billion of the taxpayer’s money which is unpaid for, and represents approximately 1.4% of our nation’s discretionary spending -- with only 3 of the possible 435 members of Congress present in the House chamber. The American people were working, why wasn’t the People’s House in town to vote? The simple but sad answer is that it would have disrupted their Memorial Day recess plans.
Americans send their representatives to Washington to represent them. For a variety of reasons, 150 of my Republican colleagues voted against a previous disaster relief bill that passed the House earlier this month. Members of Congress have a duty to vote up or down on a version that the Senate substantively amended and that none of us had read. It is particularly important that we vote when faced with spending taxpayer money when our nation is $22 trillion in debt and mounting $2.4 billion a day at a minimum.
If we want a functional Congress, we need more debate, not less. We need more action, not less. On this disaster spending bill, we should have the opportunity to offer an amendment or otherwise offer a responsible alternative that would be paid for. We should concurrently debate and pass a border supplemental bill to address the humanitarian crisis at our border. Now that Republicans and Democrats seem to agree there is a crisis, why don’t we fund beds, judges, asylum officers, and otherwise deal with said crisis? Why not now? It’s our job.
Our nation is strong and compassionate enough to have a responsive and fiscally responsible approach to helping people who are hurting in the wake of natural disasters. I could go through all the initiatives, like trying to federalize elections or trying to rewrite the application of federal equal protections, the speaker put before this disaster relief package. We could have passed this disaster bill months ago.
Unfortunately, the Speaker has refused to do so, just as she has refused to bring forward legislation that would address our border crisis. So, the cries of obstruction for daring to tell the Washington establishment to pound sand for a Memorial Day Friday gimmick are laughable.
When one party controls each chamber of Congress, gridlock is inevitable. Both will pass legislation, only to rarely see it brought up in the other. Even a freshman in the minority, no less, can understand that. But being a freshman lawmaker also comes with the stark realization that Washington is broken as I witness this body pass bill after bill each week with really no debate. The truth is neither party has any interest in working with the other, or engaging debate. Worse yet, neither party seems interested in moving past the philosophy of “give me money” that pervades all of Washington. Perhaps these things ought to change.