On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $8 billion in relief funding to benefit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) whose resources have been exhausted by record-breaking Hurricane Harvey.
The wettest tropical cyclone to ever hit the continental United States, with rain accumulation more than 50 inches in some areas, Harvey was called “probably the worst disaster in Texas history” by FEMA director Brock Long.
Following impassioned speeches on the House floor delivered by Members of Congress, mainly from Texas, the relief bill passed 419-3. The Texas delegation shared of what they’ve seen while assessing the damage over the past week.
Congressman Blake Farenthold, who represents Corpus Christi and the Texas Gulf Coast, told a personal anecdote to illustrate the devastation. “Many people, including the town mayor of Port Aransas, lost everything,” began Farenthold.
“He was walking around the Emergency Operations Center and the mayor of Corpus Christi went up to him saying, ‘I’m jealous you get to work in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops.’ The Port Aransas mayor looked at him and said, ‘It’s all I have left,’” the Congressman recounted in his floor speech.
The town of Port Aransas, on Mustang Island off the Texas coast, clocked the highest hurricane winds at 132 miles per hour — resulting in massive destruction from the Category 4 storm.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee serves a district that includes many areas of Houston and surrounding Harris County. Following the House vote, she spoke to her constituents via Facebook Live about the relief bill including a portion going to the Small Business Administration.
“Today we received about seven billion plus dollars, with $450 million for small businesses, but let me tell you what we need,” said Jackson Lee. “I’ll be introducing a bill today for $180 billion dollars to take care of the massive needs of infrastructure, cleanup and fixing the dams for the long run.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Justin Amash, one of only three House members to vote against the $8 billion relief bill, tweeted: “Congress should provide disaster relief funding, and we should pay for it now instead of billing our children and grandchildren for it.”
The House relief bill will now proceed to the U.S. Senate, where a vote is expected within the next 24 hours. Barring any unforeseen delays, it will be enacted as law when President Trump signs it later this week.
Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn also made their case to fellow Senators today, delivering speeches in support of the Harvey relief bill. To illustrate the damage in real terms, Senator Cornyn themed his speech around a series of figures that started large and got small.
“The large figures are the ones most difficult to comprehend,” he stated. “They’re the ones that make your jaw drop — like 27 trillion. That’s the number of gallons of rain that Harvey pummeled on Texas and Louisiana. The number of homes that Harvey has permanently wrecked? 40,000.”
Cornyn continued: “Yet the smallest numbers are, in many ways, the most painful. They’re the hardest to forget. Six is the number of family members Samuel Saldivar lost when a van he was driving was tossed by a strong current into the bayou.”
The six lost include four children, ages 6 to 16, who were being transported by their uncle; and their great-grandparents. Saldivar made it across a bridge when fleeing floodwaters, but he lost control of the vehicle when water got deeper at a dip in the roadway. The death toll from Hurricane Harvey has risen to 70 according to officials.
Both House and Senate leaders praised volunteers and all who have given to aid efforts. In the past week, two different Facebook Live events by music artists known for their faith-affirming songs have benefited Texas relief efforts.
Natalie Grant hosted “Together for Texas” from Nashville featuring Mandisa, Jeremy Camp, Matthew West and other artists supporting Convoy of Hope. Days later, Switchfoot and Lifehouse teamed up to perform live at a Houston rescue shelter to benefit Food for the Hungry.
A freelance writer and editor,Josh M. Shepherd has served on staff at The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, Bound4LIFE International, and two Congressional offices. His articles have appeared in media outlets including The Federalist, The Daily Signal, Charisma News, Boundless, The Stream, and Christian Headlines, where he serves as a contributor. He earned a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Colorado. Josh and his wife live in the Washington D.C. area.
Photo: Volunteers get a briefing at the George Brown Convention Center that has been turned into a shelter run by the American Red Cross to house victims of the high water from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days.
Photo courtesy: Erich SchlegelGetty Images
Publication date: September 7, 2017