U.S. House votes for Hurricane Harvey Relief Package
By Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune
September 6, 2017
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Wednesday to fund almost $8 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief, with full support from the Texas delegation.
Most of the money — about $7.4 billion — will provide short-term support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's efforts to aid those affected by the storm. Another $450 million will go to the Small Business Administration, which could end up providing loans to homeowners whose houses were flooded but do not have flood insurance. The House approved the measure in a 419-3 vote, with all 36 Texas House members joining in support of the legislation
The House vote is only the first step in the legislative process. The U.S. Senate will take up funding soon, and that body could tie the Harvey funding to other larger issues, like raising the debt ceiling and continuing to fund the government past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
About a dozen Texas Republican U.S. House members held a news conference right after the vote, with those representing the most damaged efforts testifying to the severity of the situation and the need for help.
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, sported a "Houston Strong" T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie to show his support.
"Although this storm hurt our state, I have never been prouder to call myself a Texan," said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, whose district includes parts of the Houston suburb of Katy. "It is my hope now that the Senate will act quickly and swiftly to provide immediate relief and assistance to those who have been hurt the most during this devastating storm so we can start rebuilding Texas as soon as possible."
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, said lawmakers took an an important step in recovery efforts.
"Countless lives in Houston and Harris County have been put on hold – families who cannot return to their flooded homes, children whose schools were damaged, mothers and fathers who cannot go back to work," Green said. "Hurricane Harvey was heartbreaking and traumatizing, but I am confident we will be stronger than before because we’ve already seen first-hand that we’re in this together.”
Asked Wednesday afternoon about where the Senate is headed in terms of voting on Harvey-related relief, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, "I think we will see a very substantial relief package. And I expect to see strong bipartisan support for it."
Even as Congress sorts out how to deal with Harvey, another major hurricane, Irma, is creating concerns about the Florida coastline.
"We have a category five hurricane approaching the coast of Florida, it is an intense hurricane," McCaul said when asked if that storm could divert attention and funds away from Texas. "That is why this vote was so important today to replenish the disaster relief fund."
"Every state hit deserves to recognized and to be taken care of," he later added. "We do want the focus to stay on the devastating impact Harvey had on the state of Texas, and I think my delegation, our delegation, large in number, will continue that effort.
"But at the end of the day, we are all Americans and wherever a hurricane hits in the United States of America, Americans are going to respond to that."
Claire Allbright contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/06/us-house-votes-harvey-aid/.