Harvey Drums Up Partisan Conflict: Disaster Relief Halted When Political Lines Are Prioritized

By Amy Rudolph
Web Editor

As Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, many people were not prepared for the sheer magnitude of the storm. Thousands of residents were displaced and spent nights in homeless shelters or makeshift temporary shelters such as furniture stores and high schools. As residents waded in waist deep water in storm-worn areas, they begged the government to help.

Answering their call, Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn requested additional relief aid, which they had denied to New Jersey in 2013.

At that time, Republicans held majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and created a very obvious pattern of voting down almost all Democratic legislation. When Cruz, Cornyn, and other Texas Republicans in both houses voted against the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, which proposed increasing the amount of funds that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could borrow by $10 billion.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Cruz defended his vote and said, “The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork.” Pork refers to the political term “pork barrel” legislation, in which members of Congress pad bills with miscellaneous micro-bills that they would benefit from if the bill were to pass, but do not actually relate to the main matter at hand.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie responded to Cruz’s claim and said, “That is an absolute falsehood that two-thirds of the $50 billion did not go to Sandy. It was untrue when it was said [in 2013].”

Cruz and other politicians are in a position of authority in voting for these bills, and they hold peoples’ lives and futures in their hands. People are not a tool for leverage to get another state’s delegation to side with you on a bill. There is no you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours when peoples’ lives depend on vital aid. People are not a pawn in a political chess game. When voting to deny a state funds to rebuild, these members of Congress deny the people in those communities a way to rebuild their lives. It doesn’t just come down to dollars and cents, it comes down to life and death.

In Aug. 2017 Cruz made a statement to MSNBC and said, “What I said then and still believe now is that it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster when people are hurting to pay for their own political wish list.”

Cruz should not have used the disaster of Hurricane Sandy to further his own political agenda of appearing conservative or sticking to party lines at the cost of people in desperate need of resources, as Christie suggests. The needs of the people should be a bipartisan issue rather than a partisan one. Political differences should be set aside in times of hardship to help repair the damage that has been done, rather than let it progress further.

Christie also sees disaster relief as a bipartisan issue and responded to Cruz’s statement. He said, “What I said at the time…is that someday it’s going to come to Texas…a disaster is going to come to you. And when it does, I’m going to promise [Cruz] that New Jersey congress people will stand up and do the right thing.”

Time will tell if New Jersey’s delegation honors this promise, or continues to play into the chess game that is congressional legislation. When political parties can’t even agree on disaster relief, those in need end up the losers.

Want to contribute to disaster relief for the families and communities affected by Hurricane Harvey?

Here are some organizations that could use your support!

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund by Global Giving

Houston Food Bank

United Way of Greater Houston

Save the Children Hurricane Relief

Any amount that you can donate will help displaced and now impoverished families in the greater Houston area.

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