In Harvey's WakeMore in this series
*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
Vice President Mike Pence and other members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet — including Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — visited Texas on Thursday to see damage from Hurricane Harvey and meet with its victims.
"President Trump sent us here to say we are with you," Pence said in storm-struck Rockport, flanked by Gov. Greg Abbott, Perry and a number of other Cabinet officials. "The American people are with you. We are here today. We will be here tomorrow. And we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before."
After addressing a crowd gathered near a church destroyed by Harvey, Pence headed to another location in Rockport, where he and Abbott worked to clear tree debris in front of a mobile home. They then took a helicopter tour to survey storm damage in the Rockport area. Finally, they went to Victoria to offer words of encouragement to people working on relief efforts there.
Their trip to Texas came two days after President Donald Trump visited the state to see the Harvey recovery effort. He made stops in Corpus Christi and Austin, where he largely met with state and local officials and received updates on their work responding to the storm. He did not see much damage or meet with victims.
As Pence was touring Texas on Thursday, the White House announced Trump was donating $1 million of his own money to disaster relief. It was not immediately known where the president planned to send the money. In Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders solicited suggestions from reporters during the daily press briefing.
Pence's visit to Texas coincided with increasing debate over how Congress plans to foot what will likely be a colossal bill for Harvey aid. Pence got a taste of that debate during a news conference Thursday evening in Corpus Christi, where he was asked whether such aid should be offset by budget cuts to other programs — a position he held as a member of Congress after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We expect Congress to move quickly on the initial legislation, and we'll be working very diligently" on it when Congress returns, Pence said. But when it comes to potentially offsetting Harvey aid, he added, "I would leave those decisions to members of Congress and to the president of the United States as we move forward."
Pence received a much more hands-on experience in Texas than Trump did. In addition to clearing the debris, Pence waded into the crowds that had gathered in Rockport and Victoria to comfort victims and offer assurances of the administration's support.
On the way to Corpus Christi on Thursday morning, Perry told reporters that Trump had been eager to visit Texas as early as Monday and "really wanted to be where there were citizens being affected."
"There's a time gap here," Perry said, according to a pool report. "I have dealt with some disasters in my past. The president went to the right place at the right time."
Trump is expected to return to Texas this weekend. Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said Thursday afternoon that the tentative plan is for Trump to visit the Houston area on Saturday, depending on weather conditions.
Before Pence spoke in Rockport, Abbott signed a proclamation declaring Sunday a day of prayer in Texas for those affected by the storm.
Alex Samuels contributed to this report.