The House passed a bill on Wednesday with overwhelming support to provide $7.9 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief funds to help victims, after the storm ravaged Texas and other parts of the south.
The legislation united Democrats and Republicans who have been at each other’s throats for much of 2017, ever since President Trump took office.
The 419-3 vote sent the aid package — likely the first of several — to the Senate in hopes of sending the bill to President Donald Trump before dwindling federal disaster reserves run out at the end of this week.
“Help is on the way,” said Texas GOP Rep. John Culberson, whose Houston district was slammed by the storm. “The scale of the tragedy is unimaginable. But in the midst of all this, and all the suffering, it really reflects the American character, how people from all over the country stepped up to help Houstonians recover from this.”
The first installment in Harvey aid is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency reserves in advance of Hurricane Irma, which is barreling through the Caribbean toward Florida.
“This is a chance to be your brother’s keeper,” said Houston Democratic Rep. Al Green. “This is chance for the unity that we express when we’re before the cameras to manifest itself in the votes that we cast here in Congress.”
Far more money will be needed once more complete estimates are in this fall, and Harvey could end up exceeding the $110 billion government cost of Hurricane Katrina.
What’s scary is that it’s likely even more relief money is going to be needed once Hurricane Irma hits Florida, as it’s a Category 5 storm, and has already started causing mayhem in the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, while both sides support the idea of sending relief to the people of Texas, it wasn’t completely devoid of politics. Democrat leaders would only back the bill if it came with a measure that would — in the short-term — increase our country’s borrowing limit instead of the longer term hike the GOP wanted.
Let’s hope the damage in Florida, if, and when Irma hits, isn’t as bad as it was in Texas. Even if it is, it’s a guarantee that Americans will answer the call to help their fellow citizens.