Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, STF
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, one of four Texas Republicans who voted against at $15 billion relief package for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, will lead a congressional task force to help coordinate recovery efforts.
Despite his opposition to the bill, which was tied to an increase in the government debt limit, Barton said he wants to help. “Texans will not leave one another behind,” he said in a statement Friday.
Barton, who has served in Congress since 1985, is generally considered the “dean” of the Texas congressional delegation.
He will team up with Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar in a bipartisan effort to coordinate Congress’s response to the storm that devastated Houston and the Gulf Coast.
Besides Barton, the four Texas no votes on the aid package came from Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Sam Johnson of Plano and Mac Thornberry of Amarillo.
“I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims,” Barton said in a statement last week. “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.”
The House passed the measure by a vote of 360-90.
The new task force is expected to cut through bureaucratic red tape and rules that could hamper recovery efforts. Its members also will serve as liaisons between federal government agencies and Texas officials. The group also will work on recommendations for future relief efforts and disaster planning.
Said Cuellar: “Texans are determined to emerge from Hurricane Harvey stronger than ever.”