Senate Passes $15 Billion Harvey Aid Package: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: A Robert E. Lee statue will be taken down in Dallas, first responders sue Arkema for chemical exposure, and a Texas lawmaker is a leading candidate to head Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“People are hurting down here. But as one Texan put it, we’ve got more love in Texas than water.”
—George W. Bush, according to CBS News. Bush joined every other living president in a television ad launched Thursday night that urges Americans to donate toward the relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Thursday doubling the size of the Harvey aid package passed by the House the day before, bringing the total dollar amount up to $15 billion, according to the Associated Press. Although there were concerns the package’s tie to the contentious debt ceiling extension debate would make it stall in the Senate, lawmakers wasted little time making a deal, voting 80-17 to send the package back to the House for a final vote on Friday. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill, so a lot of financial aid from the feds should be on its way to Texas and other areas affected by Harvey pretty soon. Still, according to the AP, some Republicans are a little upset that they were out-maneuvered by Trump and Senate Democrats, who came to a behind-the-scenes agreement that allowed the aid package and debt ceiling extension measure to pass. On Wednesday, Trump supported a short-term debt limit increase backed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, which would end the threat of a government shutdown next month by ensuring government agencies will be funded through December 8. According to the AP, this is just the first installment in a recovery and rebuilding package for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Irma is currently rolling toward Florida and the Atlantic Coast and could end up exceeding Hurricane Katrina’s $110 billion cost to taxpayers.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
A day after issuing a temporary injunction, favoring a group suing to save a Robert E. Lee monument from being torn down in Dallas, a federal judge has given the city the green light to remove the Confederate monument, according to the Dallas Morning News. After Dallas City Council voted nearly unanimously on Wednesday to remove the statue, work crews had the 14-foot, 81-year-old sculpture of Lee and an unnamed soldier wrapped in a harness, trying to figure out the best way to get rid of it, when U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater issued a temporary restraining order blocking its removal. But Dallas resident Hiram Patterson and the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—the group who filed the initial complaint to stop the removal—didn’t have long to savor their legal victory. Fitzwater dissolved the temporary restraining order the next day. City officials told the Morning News the statue will be removed sometime soon, probably within the next few days.
Arkema is facing a lawsuit from seven first responders who allege the company owes them $1 million in damages after they were injured following exposure to chemicals in the company’s flooded chemical plant in Crosby. The suit, filed on Thursday in Harris County, accuses Arkema of gross negligence after parts of the plant ignited and spewed toxic fumes on August 31, following fooding from Harvey. According to the Houston Chronicle, the suit alleges that, despite having knowledge of what flooding does to the plant and knowing that Harvey was coming, Arkema “ignored the foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare,” leaving trailers of volatile chemicals vulnerable to explosion after flooding took out the plant’s electricity and ability to cool the heat-sensitive chemicals. “Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosions, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road,” the lawsuit claims. “The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe.” According to the New York Times, a total of 21 first responders have been treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation and nausea.
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin, is the leading candidate to take over as the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico. This isn’t the first time a Texan has been floated as a candidate for that role—Rick Perry was thought to be in the running after the job was vacated following John Kelly’s role shift from DHS head to White House chief of staff—and McCaul himself was in the mix when President Donald Trump initially searched for someone to fill the role. The job’s been vacant since July, but according to Politico, Hurricane Harvey and the upcoming Hurricane Irma have given the White House increased urgency in filling the opening. McCaul worked closely with the White House as it responded to Harvey, and was on the ground in Texas to greet the president on the tarmac when he touched down here last week. “People familiar with his thinking” told Politico that McCaul is “eager to serve” in the Trump administration.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Here’s what assistance is available for Harvey victims Texas Tribune
Nearly two dozen people remain missing in Houston after Harvey New York Times
After Harvey canceled games, two high school football teams plan on an impromptu renewal of their rivalry Galveston Daily News
Aggie football coach Kevin Sumlin received a racist, threatening letter in the mail ESPN
A geophysicist says Harvey’s rains caused Houston to sink by two centimeters Associated Press