Hurricane Harvey cut an impressive swath over the Texas Gulf Coast and left behind damage that will take us years to get over, which is why Congress stepped up and kicked the state some disaster relief money this week.
However, while Congress has approved a bill giving millions in disaster relief aid to Houston and the other towns and cities along the Texas Gulf Coast that were devastated by Harvey, not everybody in the Texas Congressional delegation got on board and supported this plan.
Earlier this week, the House of Reprensentatives initially approved an $8 billion standalone Harvey relief bill, but then a new bill was cobbled together when President Donald Trump struck a deal with top Democrats Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and her Senate counterpart, Charles Schumer. Some say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may never get over the shock.
So the deal allowed Harvey aid to get through the works of Congress — the Senate also subsequently almost doubled the short-term aid bill, kicking nearly $15 billion to help Texas rebuild — but it also irked a lot of Republicans.
That's understandable. Hell, the Democrats are probably still just as surprised that Trump reached across party lines to make the agreement in the first place. But where understandable becomes exasperating is when you learn that even though the bill passed with bipartisan support, a handful of Texas Republicans were among those who voted no.
Yep, that's right. Actual Texas members of Congress somehow voted against giving the state relief aid.
While senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz backed the bill, four Texas Republicans voted against it: U.S. representatives Joe Barton of Ennis, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Richardson and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon. Apparently, these guys may not have gotten the memo that the Texas Gulf Coast is also an actual part of Texas.
This might come across as shocking at first, until you stop to consider the districts these congressmen are representing. In fact, all four members represent areas nowhere near the Gulf Coast. Barton is the closest, and Ennis is still more than 200 miles away from Harvey's strike zone or FEMA's official disaster areas. Clarendon, which we had to look up to even know where it is, is farthest away, up in the Panhandle
On top of that, their reasons for not voting in favor of the measure are impressively weak.
"I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term, and eliminate them in the long term," Barton said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. "The money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren."
Now, that may sound reasonable enough at first, but keep in mind the deal Trump struck with the Democrats to extend the debt ceiling (the amount of debt the United States is legally allowed to carry) three more months. The thing is the Republicans were not trying to get rid of the debt ceiling in the first place. They wanted to raise it for 18 months to stop the Democrats from using the debt limit against them in the upcoming midterm elections.
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So, in other words, Barton's excuse may sound plausible, but it's really just a lot of sound and fury that has nothing to do with what the GOP was actually seeking before the deal to push through Hurricane Harvey relief was made.
Thornberry's excuse was that he, as chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, didn't want to support a bill that has short-term funding that he claims will harm the military. (Yes, if you're tracking that, this means that Barton and Thornberry apparently still need to get their stories straight on why it was the right choice for them, as Texas congressmen, to vote against a bill to help the people in their own state since one is saying he doesn't want any debt ceiling while the other thinks it's too short term.)
Luckily, the remaining 21 Texas House Republicans and all 11 of their Democratic counterparts did vote for the bill, which will soon become law. But if the four horsemen of I'm-not-voting-for-this-because-it's-not-my-part-of-the-state try to claim any part in helping Texas recover from Harvey, be sure and remember that they didn't even vote to get the federal funding to help the Gulf Coast.