Four Texas Democrats Vote Against House Bill Offering Tax Breaks to Harvey Victims

Texas’s Democratic delegation previously acted as a united front in response to the storm. So why the change?

People make their way out of a flooded Houston neighborhood after it was inundated with rainwater following Hurricane Harvey.

This week, the U.S. House passed a bill that would grant Harvey victims some relief via tax breaks. Although most of the Texas delegation voted in favor of its passage, four Texas Democrats broke from the ranks and voted against the bill. U.S. Representatives Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth—four of the biggest-name Texas Democrats in Congress—all voted against the bill. According to the Texas Tribune, no Texas Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 264-155.

This isn’t the first time Texas Congressmen have voted “no” on a piece of federal legislation aimed at helping Texans. Earlier this month, four Texas Republicans—U.S. Representatives Joe Barton of Ennis, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Richardson, and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon—voted against a $15 billion Harvey aid package. All four voted for the tax break bill this time around, with the exception of Johnson, who did not vote. U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas, also did not participate in the vote on Thursday.

Thursday’s bill, which also affects victims impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, brings tax relief by allowing flood victims to pull money for storm-related expenses from their 401(k) or other retirement accounts without facing tax penalties. It also makes it easier to write off property losses caused by the storm, gives tax credits to businesses hiring in disaster areas, and lifts limits on charitable tax deductions for hurricane-related donations, among other measures, according to the Dallas Morning News. But the tax relief was bundled with other unrelated measures, like the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and funding for a Native American diabetes program.

So, why did these Democrats vote against it? According to the Tribune, some of them wanted the tax breaks to include other natural disasters, thought there were too few hearings on the bill, or were upset that it wasn’t tied to a measure extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As the Tribune notes, Texas’s Democratic delegation has “presented itself as a united front in dealing with the storm,” so the four “no” votes is a noticeable break.

The author of the bill, Republican U.S. Representative Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, was unhappy with his nay-voting colleagues in Congress, calling the Democrats who voted against the bill “the very worst of Washington,” and accusing them of “putting politics ahead of people,” according to the Tribune. He followed up with an angry tweet:

The bill now goes to President Donald Trump, and will go into effect if he signs it.