Hurricane Harvey has done the unexpected — brought together all 38 members of the Texas congressional delegation, 25 House Republicans, 11 House Democrats and the state’s two GOP senators — for lunch Thursday to plan and coordinate the state’s funding needs in the aftermath of the storm.
GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, spoke to the federal lawmakers by speaker phone, outlining the state’s needs, according to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who as chairman of the state’s Democratic delegation, organized the gathering with U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, chairman of the GOP House delegation.
The members will meet again next week, Cuellar said. “It was good. We’ve got to work together as Texans. We’re going to put together a bipartisan working group.” Texas Republicans typically have lunch together on Thursdays when Congress is in session but this time Democrats were included.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, led a successful effort Thursday to get Senate approval of $15.25 billion in emergency funding, nearly doubling the amount that the House approved Wednesday.
Among the issues discussed at the lunch: funding from federal sources like the Community Development Block Grant program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and for tetanus shots.
“Everybody was pitching in,” said Cuellar. “Four of us are on appropriations, which is where the money will have to come from.” Cuellar, U.S. Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, and John Culberson, R-Houston are on the House Appropriations Committee.
“In the spirit of all who have been working together in Texas, we were united in bipartisan support for federal hurricane relief,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. “As we proceed with future meetings, I hope we can also build support for providing permanent security to our Dreamers.”
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump said he is ending the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that shields from deportation immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Trump is giving Congress six months to come up with a solution before terminating the program. Over 124,000 of the 800,000 people in the program are from Texas.
Texas Democrats and Republicans have occasionally gotten together in the past to work on Texas issues. Then-U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who retired in 2013, was a big proponent of working across the aisle and would host breakfasts for members. She was recently confirmed as U.S. ambassador to NATO.