WASHINGTON — A Republican House member on Friday blocked final passage of a long-delayed disaster relief package, ensuring that communities and farmers ravaged by natural disasters would have to wait for the measure to reach President Trump’s desk.
Representative Chip Roy, a freshman from Texas and former chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz, used the power of a single lawmaker to object to a procedural vote that would have allowed the Senate-approved $19.1 billion package to pass through the House without the full chamber present.
“This is a very swampy thing to do, have a vote on a Friday heading into Memorial Day weekend,” Mr. Roy said before heading to the floor. “We could have done our jobs yesterday, when we had 435 members of Congress.”
Under congressional rules, passage would have to be unanimous, since most lawmakers left Washington on Thursday for a weeklong recess. When Representative Donna E. Shalala, a freshman Democrat from Florida, asked for unanimous consent on the package, Mr. Roy objected. In a brief speech, he said he was concerned not only about the process but also about the decision to leave out the White House’s request for about $4.5 billion for the southwestern border. He said the aid package was fiscally irresponsible.
The House adjourned, four minutes after it convened, until Tuesday when it will hold another procedural session. Ms. Shalala called the decision “tragic” as she left the floor, accusing Mr. Roy of “holding hostage thousands of people” who needed the aid.
The disaster relief vote may have to wait until the full chamber returns in the first week of June, although House leaders could try again next week. Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Mr. Roy’s move as “last-minute sabotage” that was an “act of staggering political cynicism.”
The objection is another setback for the monthslong effort to reach a consensus on the package, whose delay has left farmers, military bases and communities struggling to recover from hurricanes, wildfires and floods over the last two years.
“After President Trump and Senate Republicans delayed disaster relief for more than four months, it is deeply disappointing that House Republicans are now making disaster victims wait even longer to get the help they need,” said Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The measure, which top Senate and House lawmakers agreed to on Thursday, does have Mr. Trump’s approval, despite not including the funds for the southwestern border that the White House had pressed for.
Mr. Roy, speaking to reporters on Friday, said he was not sure if he would return on Tuesday to again block the procedural maneuver, but said he was confident that other members shared his concerns and would be willing to return to Washington to do so.
“The word ‘inevitable’ is what the swamp does to mortgage our children’s future,” Mr. Roy said, when asked about delaying the inevitable approval of the bill.
The House Democratic campaign arm, which has its sights on a number of Texas seats, including Mr. Roy’s, jumped on the objection.
“Every day Congressman Roy spends in Washington, he turns more into a creature of the swamp, making it clear why this is a top-tier Democratic pickup opportunity,” said Avery Jaffe, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (Mr. Roy won his seat by three percentage points in 2018.)
After senators announced that Mr. Trump had committed to supporting the relief bill and the chamber prepared to vote on it, Mr. Roy began voicing his concerns about the imminent House vote to members of Republican leadership and White House officials, including Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff and a former member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.
Mr. Roy’s flight back to his district was delayed on Thursday, and he decided to postpone his return to block the procedural maneuver. He called Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the Republican whip, to inform them of his decision, and was not explicitly dissuaded, according to one person with direct knowledge of the discussions, who asked for anonymity to characterize private conversations.
It was a gesture that had roots in his congressional upbringing: Mr. Roy was chief of staff in 2013, when Mr. Cruz, Republican of Texas, delivered a verbal assault on congressional proceedings that lasted over 21 hours and helped force a 16-day partial government shutdown. (Mr. Cruz voted for the disaster aid package on Thursday.)
He received some public support from other fiscal hawks in Congress, including Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who congratulated Mr. Roy for his gesture “to fight the good fight.” But with communities desperate for the assurance of additional aid, other Republican lawmakers expressed reservations. Representative Jody B. Hice, Republican of Georgia, observed that the “procedural concerns lodged are valid, but the facts remain the same — our farmers need aid today.”
Representative Austin Scott, Republican of Georgia, went even further, saying that Mr. Roy’s insistence that others in the party shared his concerns was an effort “to justify his cheap political stunt.”
“Nobody else showed up to do it,” said Mr. Scott, who voted for the House’s version of disaster relief this month and has worked extensively across the aisle with a fellow Georgian, Representative Sanford D. Bishop Jr., to secure aid for farmers in the state. “It was unnecessary and whatever personal glory he got out of it, in the end the bill will be signed into law the first week of June.”
“Don’t judge the other 434 members of the House by what Chip Roy just did,” he added. “He probably slowed things down maybe eight days.”