Who are the Hurricane Harvey relief champs in Congress?

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National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham says a warmer atmosphere could lead to more frequent, heavy storms in a preview of the official hurricane outlook forecast to be released at the end of the month. (May 17) AP, AP

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud signed on as a co-sponsor this week.

Remember those billions of federal dollars Congress approved for relief from Hurricane Harvey and other weather disasters from 2017? The government is still sitting on it.


For the folks in Puerto Rico, out of the goodness of your heart. But unless you just moved to South Texas from under a rock, you probably know that Hurricane Harvey, the second most destructive storm in U.S. history, made landfall about 20 miles from Corpus Christi and did catastrophic destruction in Port Aransas, Rockport and nearby communities. If you’ve lived here two years or more, chances are Harvey affected you.

Even if you’re a newcomer, if you are in need of a good roofer, carpenter, plumber or any other kind of building trades person and are having trouble finding or affording one, it’s because recovery work still is under way.


Last week, U.S. Reps. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, and Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, filed legislation to force federal agencies to release $16 billion in previously approved funding to the affected states and territories. Texas’ share would be $4 billion.


No. The bill is called the Bipartisan Disaster Recovery Funding Act. It is what it says it is — bipartisan. It has 14 other House sponsors from Texas alone, from Trump-backing Republicans to Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, who may be Congress’ most consistent supporter of impeachment. Weber once compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and caught much-deserved heat for it. But he and Green can work together on this disaster relief bill. It also has supporters from Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico. The Senate version’s sponsors are John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.

Besides Weber, Fletcher and Green, these other House co-sponsors were announced last week: Brian Babin, R-Woodville, Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, John Carter, R-Round Rock, Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, Joe Cunningham, D-South Carolina, Bill Flores, R-Bryan, Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, Jeniffer Gonzalez-Colon, R-Puerto Rico, Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, Michael McCaul, R-Tomball, Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, Tom Rice, R-South Carolina, David Rouzer, R-North Carolina, and Ted Yoho, R-Florida.


Initially, Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria. But not anymore. He wasn’t a co-sponsor last week when the bill was introduced, but he signed on Tuesday as a co-sponsor, after reviewing the bill thoroughly to make sure it was all it was purported to be, according to a spokesman. 

The Caller-Times first inquired Friday as to why Cloud’s name wasn’t among the initial list of co-sponsors and was told that Cloud didn’t receive the bill until shortly before it was introduced and needed to review it. 

The Caller-Times first received email notification late Tuesday that Cloud was a co-sponsor. Early Tuesday, Cloud’s office emailed a newsletter touting his support for Israel, protection for babies born alive after abortion, controlling the national debt and concern for rising suicides among veterans. There was no mention of the Bipartisan Disaster Recovery Funding Act. 

More: Rep. Michael Cloud: Israel is under attack here and at home

Cloud’s district includes the largest geographic territory damaged by Harvey, including where it made landfall. The Houston area, where most of the co-sponsors are from, had catastrophic flood damage. But Cloud’s District 27, which includes Corpus Christi, had every kind of damage Harvey inflicted, including the hurricane-force winds that caved in structures along the coast.

“Congressman Cloud has been working since he was elected to help secure recovery funding for our region, to reform the FEMA process, and to help communities and individuals in the district navigate the complex FEMA process,” according to his spokesman. “So he was happy to co-sponsor this bill and will continue pushing for the release of this funding.”

As of Wednesday morning, the government legislation tracking site Congress.gov did not yet reflect that Cloud is now a co-sponsor.

Cloud’s spokesman noted that in February, Cloud joined other members of the Texas delegation in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget urging that the Harvey relief funds be expedited.

Cloud hasn’t always gone with the Texas team on hurricane relief. In January he didn’t sign onto a letter by top state and congressional officials urging President Trump not to use Hurricane Harvey relief funds for a border wall. The letter expressed support for the wall. But Cloud took the position that the letter wasn’t supportive enough of the wall. 

More: Why didn’t Congressman Michael Cloud sign letter to protect Hurricane Harvey relief money?

More: Rep. Michael Cloud: Why I wrote my own letter to President Trump

Cloud first took office in the summer of 2018 after a special election to fill Blake Farenthold’s unexpired term. When Gov. Greg Abbott called for the election, he specifically mentioned hurricane relief as the reason District 27 could not wait for the general election in November 2018.

Tom Whitehurst Jr. analyzes, explains and, when appropriate, opines on what’s important in your life. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Caller-Times.

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