The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a $36.5 billion relief bill, which will send more money to Texas to help recover from Hurricane Harvey. But the bill has been criticized by some Texas leaders for not being enough.

Most of the money in the appropriations bill is meant to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency address disasters that have beset the United States over the last two months, from hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, to raging wildfires in California.

FEMA will receive $18.7 billion from the bill, while the National Flood Insurance Program is slated to get $16 billion, which will be used to wipe out some of the program’s debt to the U.S. Treasury. Texas will receive part of the FEMA allocation, but a specific dollar amount has not yet been designated.

Another $576.5 million will be used to address wildfires in the West, and $1.2 billion is designated for a program to provide food assistance to low-income people in Puerto Rico.

The amount that will come to Texas is far less than what officials initially hoped for. Texas leaders had asked for $18 billion in a letter sent to Senate and House budget writers earlier this month.

In a statement released before the Senate’s final vote, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, vowed to secure more money for the state.

“While some of these resources will impact Texans recovering from Hurricane Harvey, I want to stress that much, much more will be needed in my state,” Cornyn said. “Harvey has not been permanently handled in Texas. It’s not over and done with, and it’s not time to just move on.”

Cornyn delayed the passage of the bill for a week in a bid to get more funds, according to The Wall Street Journal. He also joined Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in blocking the confirmation of a White House appointee to the Office of Management and Budget to try to persuade the release of more funds.

A third round of disaster relief funds may not be voted on until December, when the Senate is supposed vote on a measure to continue funding the federal government.

Congress designated $15 billion specifically for Hurricane Harvey relief in September, three days before Hurricane Irma first made landfall in Florida.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said the money in the supplemental funding bill “does not come close” to what Texas will need to recover.

“I am disappointed that the discussions we had in the Senate and with the administration to include an additional $18.7 billion in this bill, as requested in the Texas delegation’s letter to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, were not addressed,” Cornyn said.

The Senate voted on Monday to waive debate on the bill, paving the way for an approval vote on Tuesday.

On Oct. 6, Cornyn, Cruz, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and 33 members of the Texas congressional delegation asked for $18.7 billion to be appropriated for go toward U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, disaster recovery block grants and state education agencies affected by Harvey.

After the House of Representatives passed the relief bill on Oct. 12, Abbott criticized the state’s congressional delegation for not doing enough to secure more Texas-specific money. Abbott said Texas representatives “let themselves be rolled” by the rest of the House of Representatives.

The bill will now be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


Senior Reporter

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