Hurricane Harvey has devastated parts of Texas, it made landfall on the Texas coast late Friday as a Category 4 storm, destroying homes, overturning vehicles and sinking boats, severing power lines, and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee.
A total of 1 trillion gallons of water fell, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said 40,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, 30,000 people took cover in other overcrowded shelters across Texas and 44 people have been confirmed dead.
Joel Myers of AccuWeather warned that Harvey had surpassed all others in terms of destruction. “This will be the worst natural disaster in American history. The economy’s impact, by the time its total destruction is completed, will approach $160 billion, which is similar to the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,” he told The New York Post.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, estimates that 30,000 will be in need of shelter by the time the storm passes and there is already an estimated $40 billion in damage. The agency also estimates that more than 450,000 people are likely to seek federal aid. US lawmakers have already begun contemplating the massive rebuilding costs, leaving some Republicans in a tricky spot after they opposed federal aid when a storm devastated eastern states in 2012.
“I believe we need to put an aid package together for $150 billion” for emergency relief and recovery from Harvey, House Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee, whose Houston district was largely underwater, told CNN. That’s 2.5 times the funding approved by Congress and allocated by the federal government following super storm Sandy, which caused widespread devastation in eastern states including New York, New Jersey and Maryland when it struck in October 2012. Despite the clear need for federal government intervention after that storm, 23 of Texas’s 24 Republican House members and both Republican Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz — opposed and voted no to the Sandy Relief Act.
Senator Cruz Texas’s most outspoken opponent of Hurricane Sandy Relief, recently explained his no vote saying “The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork,” he told CNN. “Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.” Glenn Kessler of the Fact Checker blog at the Washington Post gave Cruz’s claim 3 Pinocchios, a ranking bestowed for “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”, after looking into Cruz’s claim that the Sandy relief bill was laden with pork. Privately several sources close to Texas Republican members echoed Cruz’s comments about wasteful spending but did not want to speak publicly about the issue.
The Texas Tribune reports many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans serving in Congress have, for nearly five years now, kept a list of names handy to roll out at a moment’s notice. They call it “the Comeuppance Caucus.” “There is deep and lingering resentment by members of Congress who needed help in their districts when Sandy just ravaged their constituents,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat who represented Long Island until he retired last January. “Senator Ted Cruz and others led the fight against that aid, and a lot of people said there would be a day of reckoning.”
Fortunately for Texas cooler non-political voices are emerging, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said “The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites”. “Even though I’m sure there’s going to be some temptation by New Jersey House members in particular to drag their feet a little bit based upon what these folks in Texas did to us during Sandy, I’m going to be urging all our members to rise above that and provide the aid as quickly as possible.” New York’s most vocal critic of Cruz and the Texas Congressional Delegation Republican Congressman Peter King tweeted:
New Jersey Democrat Congressman Bill Pascrell followed with:
New York Democrat Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney tweeted for all true Americans:
No one should stoop to the low level of partisan politics displayed by Texas Republicans during the Hurricane Sandy national crisis, Congress should give Texas all the money necessary to survive Hurricane Harvey and to rebuild from the devastation left in its wake. But Texas does not need to be let off the hook for its irresponsible Hurricane Sandy no votes! An amendment to any Hurricane Harvey legislation should be added that calls out all the Texas legislators by name who voted against Hurricane Sandy relief, admonishing them for playing politics at a time of national crisis.
A little bitter with a whole lot of sweet relief hopefully will send the message to all politicians that during times of national crisis, political ideology should not stand in the way of doing the right thing!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective into current events. Drop by his blog for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.