exas lawmakers are crying foul after the White House announced an additional $44 billion in disaster funding.
Lawmakers from both parties said the White House’s latest request for emergency disaster-relief funds falls far short of what is needed to recover from this year’s devastating storms, and braced for a political fight over how to pay for it.
In its funding request Friday, its third to date, the White House asked for $44 billion in emergency disaster relief and suggested trimming federal spending by $59 billion to offset the cost of the aid, a step that could ignite a congressional fight over whether disaster relief has to be paired with budget cuts elsewhere.
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a letter to congressional leaders that the White House would be requesting additional funds later to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover from Hurricane Maria, but that more time was needed to assess the damage there.
Even before the White House had officially sent its request, senior Republicans from Texas were criticizing it as insufficient. In a hearing Thursday evening, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) called the request “wholly inadequate.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has requested $61 billion in assistance, which Mr. Cornyn supports, an aide said.
A group of seven Houston area congressmen sent out a joint email blasting the amount:
HOUSTON, TX- Today, Congressmen Brian Babin (TX-36), Ted Poe (TX-02), Pete Olson (TX-22), Blake Farenthold (TX-27), Randy Weber (TX-14), Michael McCaul (TX-10), and Kevin Brady (TX-08) released the following statement regarding the Office of Management and Budget Supplemental Disaster Request:
“After reviewing the latest Office of Management and Budget (OMB) supplemental request for disaster recovery, we find the proposal insufficient and unacceptable. We have met personally with the Director of OMB and explained in detail the disaster of Harvey on Texas. Even so, we strongly believe the request is woefully inadequate. Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding events that followed ranks as the second most costly disaster in modern times (the Fukushima Disaster ranks first). While damages are still being determined, estimates currently sit at approximately $190 billion or more. To be clear, this $44 billion proposal, to be split between multiple disaster areas, does not adequately address long-term recovery needs in Texas. The people of Texas need and deserve federal assistance for long-term flood mitigation, which this request does not sufficiently provide. We stand together opposed to this level of funding and will continue to fight to help Texas rebuild.”
It’s somewhat interesting that Rep. John Culberson (TX-7) didn’t join them but he is quoted in this article on the Dallas Morning News website:
Houston Rep. John Culberson, a Republican and appropriations committee member, was clearly disappointed by the result.
The White House decided that a little pushback was in order.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “I don’t think $44 billion is a low amount and my guess is if you asked any average citizen across this country they wouldn’t feel that it’s low either.”
She said Texas “should step up” and provide state money to the rebuilding efforts. But she said damage assessments in Puerto Rico hadn’t been completed yet and additional requests were expected.
She’s right. We Texans have to do more to help ourselves and stop looking to the federal government as a sugar daddy. The feds don’t have any money, all they are doing is issuing more debt. Republicans used to care about the national debt. Or so they said.
The worst example of treating the feds as a sugar daddy comes from Puerto Rico. They have asked for an astonishing $94 billion to ‘recover’ from hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Democrats said the request didn’t come close to what would be needed, particularly for Puerto Rico, which is struggling to restore power and rebuild. Puerto Rico is asking Congress for $94.4 billion to rebuild.
Did you know that the gross domestic product for Puerto Rico is just over $100 billion? And that the population is shrinking dramatically and expected to continue to shrink for the foreseeable future? And that the population is about a million fewer than the population of Harris County? And that the damage from the hurricanes is expected to accelerate the population loss? Or that they do not pay federal individual income taxes? Or that the total of all taxes coming from Puerto Rico is less than $4 billion a year?
There is a better solution.
For Puerto Ricans, Irma was a close call that revealed the system’s chronic fragility and heightened the urgency to strengthen the island’s antiquated infrastructure before future natural disasters.
“This is a moment of crisis that we need to benefit from and transform into an opportunity of change, production and investment,” Jenniffer González, the island’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said.
How a commonwealth going through a decade-long recession will be able to pay for much-needed upgrades is the key question. One option is to turn to the private sector, local economists say.
Private investments, Mr. Rosselló said, could be accelerated under a provision of a contentious newlawcalledPromesa, which placed the island’s finances under the oversight of a federal board. The provision could expedite and facilitate the process for private investment in electric, highway and water projects.
Hurricane Irma “can become an opportunity or another liability,” Mr. Rosselló said.
Maybe we Texans need to look for opportunities as well.