WASHINGTON — It’s been over a month since the U.S. House approved billions more for Hurricane Harvey relief funding, but the U.S. Senate has yet to vote on the measure. Now, a dozen Texans in the U.S. House are publicly urging senators to take action and vote on the bill as soon as possible.
"We have constituents who after almost six months, remain in transitional housing and homes that lack weatherization as Texas remains in the grip of an unusually cold winter," reads the letter sent Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York. "It is past time for Congress to act."
The letter was signed by four Democrats – Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Filemon Vela of Brownsville, Gene Green of Houston and Al Green of Houston – and eight Republicans: Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Randy Weber of Friendswood, Brian Babin of Woodville, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Michael McCaul of Tomball, Ted Poe of Houston and Kevin Brady of The Woodlands.
The aid package, which would allocate $81 billion toward states and American territories that were affected by hurricanes and wildfires last year, passed in the House in December alongside a short-term spending bill that averted a government shutdown. At the time, the Senate declined to vote on the aid package and only passed the funding bill.
"We understand that the Senate has been consumed of late with issues of national importance," the members wrote. "However, this [bill] is a non-partisan matter and critical to the lives and livelihoods of our constituents and the nation at large."
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It’s unclear exactly how much Texans would receive from the aid package. The bill's language spreads the funding to multiple areas including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Corps of Engineer projects and grants for housing, small business loans and agriculture assistance. The $81 billion figure is a significant increase from earlier proposals, one of which offered $44 billion to be split between Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
The members' letter stressed that the "failure" to fund disaster recovery along the Texas Gulf Coast and the Houston area not only hurts residents but also "jeopardizes" the state's energy industry. In a statement also released Friday, the dozen U.S. House members from Texas said the U.S. Senate has failed to take the steps needed to "keep the promise" made to Texans in August.
"We have waited for the Senate to act, but our constituents cannot wait any longer," the members said.