Houston Congresswoman: Lawmakers Should Pass $150B in Hurricane Harvey Aid

Houston congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said federal lawmakers should begin working on a Hurricane Harvey aid package worth about $150 billion, more than double the amount Hurricane Sandy needed five years ago.

Jackson Lee told CNN today that the funding to recover from the massive flooding is needed "because this not only includes the Houston Harris County area, which is 6 million in its metroplex, but all of our areas, such as Beaumont, that was hit last night, Victoria and Corpus and places in south Texas."

"We don't know where else Hurricane Harvey will come," she said. "And we understand it may turn back to Houston on tomorrow and the next day."

The confirmed death toll from the storm thus far is 15, including a family of six and a Houston police officer caught in the floodwaters.

The National Hurricane Center said today that Harvey, now a tropical storm, is moving north-northeast at a glacial 5 mph. "A general north-northeast track is expected today and tomorrow. On the forecast track, the center of Harvey is expected to be just offshore of the middle and upper coasts of Texas through tonight, then move inland over the northwestern Gulf coast early Wednesday," said their latest public advisory. "Maximum sustained winds remain near 45 mph (75 km/h) with higher gusts. No significant change in strength is expected before the center moves inland. A gradual weakening should begin thereafter."

"Harvey is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches through Friday over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana. Isolated storm totals may reach 50 inches over the upper Texas coast, including the

Houston/Galveston metropolitan area."

A rain gauge southeast of Houston 49.32 inches as of 9 a.m., breaking the previous record of 48 inches set during tropical

cyclone Amelia in 1978 at Medina, Texas.

The shelter at the Houston Convention Center is over capacity with 9,000 people packed inside.

"I'm seeing throngs of survivors coming in, people who have barely the clothes on their back, soaking wet, their belongings in their hand," Jackson Lee said. "But they're resilient. They have faith. And they are looking for a future. And they believe that they're going to get help. That's an important message for those who now have nothing. And I think we have a real obligation to commit to them that they will have a future and that the resources will come."

The priority right now, the congresswoman said, is rescue. On the funding front, she said she hopes that "going forward we won't have those conflicts" in Congress as lawmakers did over the $51 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief. Jackson Lee voted at the time for a larger funding package than the amount lawmakers ultimately approved.

Congress returns from its summer break after Labor Day.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he's urging his state's lawmakers to pass the emergency funding bill while slamming Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over their past votes on Sandy funding to help his home state.

“The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites and I said back in 2012 they would be proven to be hypocrites,” Christie said Monday. “When you’re a state that has any kind of coastal exposure, like Texas does to the Gulf, you’re going to wind up having some type of disaster. Then all of a sudden you’re not going to want to have a conversation about all the philosophical niceties because people are suffering and dying.”

Cruz told CNN on Monday that "it's not accurate" to say Republicans were opposed to hurricane funding.

"Every Republican, including Texas Republicans, agreed that hurricane funding is an important and critical role for the federal government, and that Hurricane Sandy, a great many people were hurting from it. Now, there were a number of us who were concerned that that particular bill became a $50 billion bill filled with pork and unrelated spending that wasn't hurricane relief. It was simply local members of Congress spending on their pet projects. And two-thirds of what was spent in that bill had little or nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy," Cruz said.

"Of course, the federal government has a critical role in disaster relief," he added. "It has before and should continue to. But you should not have members of Congress that are exploiting disasters to fund their pet projects. And so there will be time for all of those debates in Washington."