U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul described as “unconscionable” the votes last week of four Republican colleagues from Texas against a $15.3 billion initial Hurricane Harvey aid package.
“I don’t want to judge them,” McCaul, R-Austin, said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I judge myself and my conscience, and when I have people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and my moral obligation to help them, and I felt that that vote was a vote of conscience to help people in my state and also now in Florida.”
“I think that’s what Americans do, and I think it’s unconscionable to vote against something like that,” said McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The four Texans — U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Ennis; Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas; Sam Johnson, R-Plano; and Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon — were among 90 Republicans who voted against the House’s agreement with the Senate’s larger relief package Friday. None of the four represents a district affected by Harvey.
Republican opponents mostly complained that the aid was linked to a three-month lifting of the debt ceiling.
“I think having to raise the debt ceiling was the issue, and the fact is that Mick Mulvaney is the director of (the Office of Management and Budget), and he was a Freedom Caucus guy when he served with us, and he told us point blank that you could not appropriate disaster relief if you didn’t raise the debt ceiling, so we were stuck with that choice,” McCaul said. “What do you with that choice? Just stand on principle and vote ‘no’? And I question that principle. Or do you vote to help people back in your home state who are hurting really badly?”
On Friday, Hensarling and Barton explained why they had supported the smaller House aid package but could not in good conscience support the larger Senate measure.
“On Sept. 6, I voted for the $7.6 billion of emergency aid for my fellow Texans suffering from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey,” said Hensarling, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. “I expect to vote for more emergency aid to ensure our fellow citizens are out of harm’s way and have the food, shelter and medicine necessary to sustain them. What I’m not prepared to vote for is even more national debt without the opportunity to offset it with lower-priority spending.”
Barton likewise said, “I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term and eliminate them in the long term.”
Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, also backed the House package, but he said he opposed the Senate bill because it would freeze defense spending at a dangerously low level that would do “enormous, lasting damage to the American military.”
Johnson hasn’t publicly commented on his vote.