HOUSTON — CBS News and other national media outlets are reporting the White House is considering possibly diverting disaster relief money, including for Hurricane Harvey, to pay for a border wall if President Trump declares a national emergency to reopen parts of the government.
Several Houston-area Congressional members told KHOU 11 News Friday they had neither seen nor heard any confirmed proposal. While Democrats and Republicans often don’t agree on much, in this case, the Texas delegation agrees losing those disaster dollars is something they don’t want to see.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) tweeted Friday, “Hurricane Harvey funding is safe,” linking to a previous tweet where he said President Trump “fully supports” the Corps’ Harvey relief dollars.
A spokesperson says Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) “has strongly expressed his hard opposition to the Trump administration on this action” and “fully opposes diverting critically needed Harvey flood control disaster relief funds away from the Houston area.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin), whose district includes suburban Houston, “remains committed to ensuring it is used for Army Corps projects to mitigate future flooding disasters as intended,” according to a spokesperson.
Sen. John Cornyn weighed in Friday, too, standing alongside Sen. Ted Cruz after a joint appearance in Austin.
“We have talked to the White House (about the idea),” Sen. Cornyn said. “The president has now talked to his lawyers about whether he would have the authority to issue a national emergency and reprogram money that’s been allocated for other purposes, but I will tell you that I will oppose any reprogramming on Harvey disaster funds. We have worked very hard to make sure that the victims of Hurricane Harvey are addressed, their concerns are addressed, and Texas is able to rebuild, and I think we are all together on that. We’ve talked also the governor and lieutenant governor as well as members of the Texas delegation, and we are all unified in that position.”
KHOU also spoke with staff for three local democratic Congressional members.
Staff for Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) said the newly sworn-in Congresswoman “immediately joined with other members to figure out what they could do to prevent (the diversion)," calling it “unacceptable."
A spokesperson for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) said, “The Congresswoman does not support the action.”
Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) released a statement Friday afternoon saying, in part, “I am outraged by the President’s despicable decision to even consider taking these much-needed funds from areas where people are still suffering.”
A high-ranking Republican Congressional member told KHOU they believe the White House is likely scanning the entire government budget for unobligated funds. However, that official is “confident” the Harvey relief dollars won’t be touched because of the close collaboration between lawmakers and the White House on the bill, as well as the potential backlash from constituents if that relief money is diverted.