Conservative freshman Rep. Chip Roy was at the airport heading back to Texas late last week when he heard that House GOP leaders had agreed to a voice vote on a $19 billion funding bill.
So he called his wife, canceled his flight and headed back to the Capitol.
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The next day, the former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made national headlines as he single-handedly blocked a funding bill that would have delivered badly needed cash to a dozen states — infuriating fellow Republicans and putting a target on his back for the next election cycle.
Roy’s surprise last-minute tactic guaranteed a weeklong delay of aid to states hit by wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, including his home state — further pushing back assistance that had already been stalled since before the midterm elections.
But Roy, who won election last year by only 2.6 percentage points, said he has no regrets about helping lead the charge to demand a full debate and a recorded vote on the $19 billion package.
“I’ve gotten an enormous amount of support from the district, people writing in, emails, text messages,” Roy said in a lengthy phone interview this week about the fierce reaction within the GOP and by the Democrats’ campaign arm in Texas. “I have no concern about any candidate they want to throw my way.”
Roy, a fierce fiscal hawk and member of the Freedom Caucus, said hisbiggest concern is that the House would approve a funding package that’s just shy of the annual budget for NASA without a single minute of debate, let alone a roll-call vote. He was also irked that Congress was willing to forgo aid for the southern border in an attempt to rush to a deal.
Over the past several days, Roy has helped coordinate an impromptu wall of opposition to the Democrats’ efforts to fast-track the disaster package, personally ensuring that another like-minded Republican will be on the floor to keep it from moving to President Donald Trump’s desk. He coordinated with Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) before they showed up on the floor on Tuesday. And he spoke with Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) before Thursday’s session — which marked the final chance to clear the bill before the House returns next week.
Roy did so over the objections of some in GOP leadership: Before he went on the floor, he shared his plan with top Republicans in the House and Trump administration. Some privately warned Roy about the optics of blocking emergency money that would be used to rebuild homes for people displaced by natural disasters.
“‘Well, if you’re objecting to the disaster [supplemental], clearly you’re going to be tarred and feathered,” Roy said recalling the conversations. “They’ll say that you’re evil.”
But his answer was the same: He wanted lawmakers to vote on the record.
Afterward, Roy received texts and calls from more than a half-dozen fellow conservatives, mostly those in the Freedom Caucus, who were willing to make the trek to Washington during recess to support the cause.
Rose, the Tennessee freshman who blocked the package on Thursday, also said people in his district have voiced support for his maneuver.
“When they hear things like this can happen without members here to vote … it’s part of what earns this city the reputation as the swamp,” Rose said.
But Roy has also heard from Republicans who are furious with him over the effort.
The ad hoc effort by the small number of conservatives has sharply split congressional Republicans, many of whom have spent months personally pressing GOP and Democratic leadership to speed things up. That includes Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the influential House Appropriations Committee, who took the rare step of criticizing her colleague’s move as a “political stunt.”
Rep. Austin Scott, whose district lost millions in crop damage from a 2018 hurricane, had just landed in Atlanta when he heard the Senate had reached a deal to approve the disaster package.
The Georgia Republican immediately booked a flight back to Washington, before he learned that House Democratic leaders weren’t planning to call members back to the Capitol because they’d already scattered across the country. Some members had already left for congressional trips overseas.
Back home in his district, Scott was among several Republicans who started asking Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to agree to hold a voice vote, which they ultimately did.
Scott said he spoke to Roy privately after he watched the Texas conservative’s stand on Friday, though he wouldn’t disclose what exactly was said. On Twitter afterward, Scott called his GOP colleagues “clowns.”
“It’s theater and grandstanding, it’s all it is. It’s not even a principled stand,” Scott said in an interview. “They’re not trying to negotiate a resolution. They’re just acting up.”
Roy has argued that the impact of the delay is minimal — something that even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged to reporters this week. The House will easily clear the package when lawmakers return on Monday, amounting to just a few more days of waiting.
But some Republicans are privately annoyed by what they saw as a pointless political move that invites attacks from Democrats.
And they also can’t help but compare Roy’s tactics to those of his former boss in 2013, when Cruz led the government into a painful government shutdown over Obamacare. Roy was Cruz’ chief of staff at the time, though he denied that his move on disaster aid was influenced by the same strategy.
For lawmakers from states such as Texas and Florida, the conservatives’ opposition is just one more hurdle in a long line of setbacks over the past year. For months, it was Trump’s opposition to the amount of aid for Puerto Rico that was holding up the money. Then there were a series of flare-ups over individual members’ demands for policy add-ons, like harbor maintenance funds or protections for hemp farmers.
Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher — whose Houston-area district has waited for nearly two years for federal assistance — said she worked closely with Texas Republican Reps. Pete Olson and Randy Weber, as well as their counterparts in the Senate, to unlock $4 million for their state.
“Our delegation has worked in a very bipartisan way,” Fletcher said in an interview. “To see someone, especially someone from our delegation, hold it up on these procedural reasons … it’s incredibly frustrating.”
But Roy remained defiant despite the pushback.
“With all due respect to members who have been here for awhile … I’m sorry, we have a job to do. That some members of either party, of any state have some concern about what we’re trying to do to fight for fiscal sanity, excuse me,” Roy said. “I’m not the one who caused the $22 trillion in debt.”