Speaker Nancy Pelosi is keeping up the pressure on Republicans with another government funding bill—and this time, it includes a neat parliamentary trick.
The underlying bill is for disaster relief, putting those Republicans whose constituents are really hurting on the spot. It provides $12.1 billion in hurricane relief for Florida and the Carolinas, wildfire relief for California, and funds for the island territories struck by typhoons, as well as funding on an ongoing program for Puerto Rico that is set to expire in March. Additional amendments could add $1.9 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers who lost crops and livestock as a result of natural disasters in 2018. A bipartisan team of representatives on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, both from Georgia, spearheaded that agricultural funding amendment, citing a University of Georgia estimate that their state has lost $2.5 billion because of Hurricane Michael.
The clever bit of parliamentary maneuvering they’ve performed is to attach a continuing resolution that would reopen the government through Feb. 8 as a “self-executing” rule—once the rule allowing for the bill to be taken up on the floor passes, the government funding part of it automatically passes, too. The House Rules Committee approved the rule in a party-line vote of 8-4.
To increase the pressure further, they’re allowing an amendment that prohibits the use of any funding provided for disaster relief to the Army Corps of Engineers or the Department of Homeland Security from being used to “plan, develop, or construct a new physical barrier along the Southwest border.” When it comes to final passage, Republicans in disaster-struck states will have to decide whether to vote for more assistance and against the wall or vote against their constituents and for Trump.
Democrats can easily pass the bill. That will leave Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans having to explain why they’re refusing to vote for relief to disaster-ravaged states and reopening the government, given that they’ve got time to waste on pointless anti-abortion bills.