WASHINGTON - The U.S. House approved $15 billion in aid to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey's destruction in southeast Texas on Friday, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. Later in the day, Trump signed it into law.
The funding is only meant to serve as a short-term measure, and a much more expansive bill is expected to be negotiated later in the fall. The aid was also part of a larger deal to avoid a government default and shutdown for the next three months.
The measure passed the U.S. House 316-90. On Thursday, it passed the U.S. Senate 80-17.
Four Texas Republicans voted against the bill: U.S. Reps. Joe Barton of Ennis, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Richardson and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon. None of these four members represent counties that were in the direct path of the storm or part of FEMA's disaster declaration in the Harvey aftermath.
"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," Barton said in a statement. "The money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren."
Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, cited an aversion to short-term funding measures that he said harmed the military.
All Texas Democrats voted for the funding.
Earlier in the week, the House approved an $8 billion stand-alone Harvey aid bill.
The new bill, which mirrored the Senate measure, passed with Democratic and GOP support and was part of a deal Trump cut with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. Few Republicans were happy with that development
The Senate followed up by passing the bill, but expanding the short term aide to nearly $15 billion.
Texans in Congress spent much of the week presenting a united front on Harvey aid. But the GOP members who appeared at a bipartisan news conference Thursday were largely from the Houston region.
U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, said in a statement after the vote that he reluctantly voted for the bill.
"While I am extremely disappointed this relief package was tied to a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) and debt ceiling increase – without any meaningful reforms – it is absolutely critical that these folks get the relief they so desperately need," Babin said.
Gov. Greg Abbott praised Trump and the members of Congress who supported the measure.
"I thank the President and both the House and Senate for this initial relief package that will help reinforce the ongoing recovery in Texas," Abbott said in a statement Friday. "We will continue to work with both local and federal leaders to ensure all needs continue to be met through the rebuilding process."
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson's hometown.