Last week, Texas experienced some of the worst flooding seen in decades. Floodwaters inundated large swaths of South and Central Austin, closed nearly half of all Austin-controlled low water crossings, and fatalities were recorded in Hays and Harris Counties, among other places. The damage was significant, but it was reassuring when President Obama signed a declaration of emergency, freeing up federal dollars to help rebuild and restore communities in Central Texas and Houston, dollars that Senator Ted Cruz, and most other elected officials in Texas, advocated for publicly.
I am a native New Yorker. I watched the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy from a thousand miles away. Almost all houses in my hometown of Pelham, New York lost power, many for weeks. Tree limbs and high water destroyed possessions, and left many throughout the New York area stranded, livelihoods ruined. While Senator Ted Cruz originally supported the federal disaster declaration, which freed up a limited amount of money for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the recovery effort, Senator Cruz attacked the passage of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which provided a necessary $50 billion dollars in aid in the wake of the second-costliest storm in United States history.
Cruz, along with 31 other Senators in his caucus, voted against this legislation in late December of 2013, citing what they considered excessive pork-barrel spending. But the legislation actually provided key funds to repair infrastructure destroyed by the storm, provided loans to small businesses for rebuilding and increased funds for healthcare facilities in order to cope with the human toll of the storm. This legislation was quite necessary. The maneuvering against it was just another attempt by Cruz and fellow senators to score points with constituents by wrestling the federal deficit.
But Cruz only crusades against the federal deficit until it undermines his political standing. There was little political fallout for advocating against spending on Hurricane Sandy as a senator from Texas, but it was a political necessity to advocate for spending on the flooding in his home state. While the amount of money is certainly different, so was the scope of the disaster. By advocating against Sandy relief funds, Cruz portrayed himself as a champion of fiscal conservatism. But there is little chance he would rally against additional federal assistance to those affected in Texas.
Texans should care about the precedent set by Cruz and others in his party. Disaster relief funds should never become a political issue even when it is expedient. Funds should be readily available for citizens of all 50 states, regardless of their preference for a certain political party. As Americans and as Texans, we were willing to help our fellows in need. Reactions to last week’s flooding showed that. But our Representatives in the Senate thought differently. While Senators Cruz and Cornyn called for Federal relief funds for the flooding in Texas, they refused to vote for necessary funds to help the Mid-Atlantic States rebuild from the second-costliest storm in American history. That is not acceptable. Cruz should have been a strong advocate for spending for both disasters and should be equitable rather than regional in his votes, especially as he seeks nationwide office. Our elected representatives should act with a conscience-driven by compassion, not by self-interest.
Fountain is a government senior from Pelham, New York.