A Texas flag flies over floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey in La Grange, Texas. (Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
When members of Congress from Texas return to work next week, the fallout from Harvey, likely the worst disaster to ever hit the state, will follow them back to Washington...
Unless it is reauthorized by the end of September, the National Flood Insurance Program, which is nearly $25 billion in debt, will lose most of its borrowing power at a time when it will begin making payouts on claims on the Texas Gulf Coast. And President Trump has promised to work with Congress on a federal aid package for affected communities in Texas.
From Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein:
But that aid request puts many Texas Republicans in Congress in a bind four years in the making. In 2013, all but one Texas Republican who was serving in Congress then and is still in office now voted against an aid package for New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy.
"The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a Trump ally, said this week. "I said back in 2012, they’d be proven to be hypocrites. It was just a matter of time." See a clip below:
Christie took direct aim at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who voted against Sandy help four years ago, today on "Morning Joe:"
The Energy 202 reached out all 38 members of Texas delegation to ask about that and other issues related to Harvey (follow The Post's comprehensive coverage here) as they prepare to return to Washington.
Only one Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith, responded to defend his 2013 vote.
"It is my hope that our funding package for aiding those affected by Harvey doesn't include funding unrelated to damage caused by the storm,” said Smith, who is the chairman of the House Science Committee and a frequent critic of federal climate scientists. “The Sandy bill was used as an opportunity for fiscally irresponsible politicians to exploit natural disaster spending in order to fund pet projects with taxpayer money.”
In 2013, many Republicans derided the Sandy aid bill as being laden with spending provisions unrelated to the hurricane, such as fixes to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On MSNBC this week, Cruz claimed that “two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.” (Cruz’s office did not reply to The Post’s request for comment.)
Texas's other senator and the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn, also defended his Sandy vote, noting that he did approve a smaller, $9.7 billion increase in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s borrowing power before rejecting the larger $50.5 billion aid package. (Cornyn's office also didn't reply.)
Texas Democrats, however, criticized their Republican colleagues for voting against the Sandy package and said they agreed with scientists who say climate change increases the severity of disasters like Harvey.
“Natural disasters know no party, and it was regrettable that Texas Republicans played politics with the Hurricane Sandy aid package in their time of need,” Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Tex.) said.
Calling from a school in his Houston-area district that has been converted into a shelter, Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) added that Congress should pass an aid package not only to help the people of Texas, but “because we want every American to know that your government is going to be there for you in a time of crisis.”
The lone Republican “yes” vote from the Lone Star State for that Sandy bill came from Rep. John Abney Culberson, whose district encompasses parts of Houston and its suburbs.
On the question of climate change, Republicans from Texas were also mute.
Meanwhile, the six Texas Democrats who responded to The Post’s request for comment — Reps. Joaquin Castro, Henry Cuellar, Lloyd Doggett and Eddie Bernice Johnson along with Green and Veasey — agreed with scientists who say climate change increases the severity of disasters like Harvey.
“The flooding in Houston caused by Harvey marks the third ‘500-year’ flood to hit the city in the past three years,” said Johnson, who serves with Smith on the House Science Committee as its top Democrat. “It is hard to believe these catastrophic events can be occurring so frequently by chance.”
However, Smith pointed to an interview that Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, gave on CNN, in which Read declined to attribute the Harvey’s intensity to climate change.
“This is not an uncommon occurrence to see storms grow and intensify rapidly in the western Gulf of Mexico,” Read said. “That’s as long as we’ve been tracking them, that has occurred.”
Indeed, climate scientists say singling out this one hurricane as a global-warming-driven anomaly would be a mistake. But they also argue that climate change can worsen the hurricanes that do occur.
“The storm is a bit more intense, bigger and longer lasting than it otherwise would be,” Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told The Post over the weekend.
As for the National Flood Insurance Program, The Post's Mike DeBonis offers this breakdown:
Even before stormwaters swept across metropolitan Houston, debate on how to restructure the NFIP exposed fissures in Congress that crossed traditional partisan lines, pitting conservatives who want to scale back the government costs for the program against lawmakers from flood-prone regions wary of jacking up their constituents’ premiums.
"Leaving millions of homeowners without flood insurance is not an option," Castro, a Texas Democrat, said. "Congress must either modify the program in a way that keeps rates affordable or simply pass an extension of the current program."
Meanwhile, Harvey made landfall for a second time early Wednesday as a tropical storm in Louisiana. The storm hit west of Cameron, La., around 4 a.m. local time, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center predicted another 3 to 6 inches of rain would fall from southwestern Louisiana and between the area near the border with Texas and into western Kentucky, with “isolated amounts up to 10 inches.” The center warned of “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” that would continue in and around Houston and into southwest Louisiana for the remainder of the week.
Aug 30, 2017
original story HERE
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