Sen. Cruz: We Mark the Anniversary of Hurricane Harvey in a Spirit of Triumph
Delivers floor speech recognizing resilience of Texans and commemorating first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor to recognize the bravery and resilience of Texans and commemorate the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on August 25, 2017.
“One year after Harvey’s devastation, the work continues,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Texas Gulf Coast continues to recover, and it will take years for the rebuilding to be complete. But as the Lone Star State rebuilds stronger than ever, we will keep moving forward. May we never forget the tragic days when Harvey hit our shores. But may we always remember the heroes who triumphed in the midst of the darkness. The brave men and women who were a light to their countrymen. They are the best of America—and they are the best of Texas.”
Sen. Cruz’s remarks may be viewed here and below.
“Madam President, I rise today to recognize the first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction along the Texas Gulf Coast. This Saturday, August 25th, marks one year since the most destructive storm in Texas history made landfall.
“Hurricane Harvey is now considered the second-most costly hurricane in U.S. history - second only to Hurricane Katrina. But more importantly, more tragically, Hurricane Harvey took many, many precious lives.
“Harvey started out as a category four storm hitting South Texas, making landfall at Corpus Christi and Victoria and Port Aransas, and Rockport, and Aransas Pass, and Refugio, doing devastating damages with 135 mph winds. It took down power lines, it stopped fresh water, it clogged sewage systems. It devastated people’s homes, people’s businesses.
“I visited each of those communities many, many times in the weeks and months that followed Hurricane Harvey, and I’ve seen the transition those communities have undergone. Dealing with a disaster and then rebuilding.
“But Harvey wasn't done after making landfall. Then, it moved north and east, parking over the city of Houston and just sitting there. Over six-day period, Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana, causing historic flooding. Flooding that is not a 100-year flood, not a 500-year flood, but a 1,000-year flood. In southeastern Texas, Hurricane Harvey dropped rainfall of more than 60 inches, which exceeds the annual rainfall on average for that region.
“Over 300,000 structures were flooded in southeast Texas, and half a million cars. More than 200,000 single-family homes were flooded across the state, many of which were not in flood plains. Not deemed at risk of floods.
“But we don’t mark this anniversary in a spirit of tragedy—rather, in a spirit of triumph.
“There were many bright lights that cut through the darkness of the storm. There were the police and first responders, who led thousands of families to safety. Some, like Sergeant Perez of the Houston Police Department, who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting his community.
“There were over 17,000 national guardsmen who answered the call, from Texas and from all around the country. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 11,022 people and 1,384 pets during the storm. Countless acts of heroism from folks next door—from church basements offering shelter to neighbors making human chains, plucking one another out of the floodwaters.
“From our countrymen in the Cajun Navy, who boldly answered the call with memories of Katrina still fresh and vivid, to business owners like my friend Mattress Mack, who threw open the doors to give entire communities shelter, warmth, and comfort.
“Madam President, I’ve never been prouder to be a Texan than I was in the days during and after Hurricane Harvey. When you saw ordinary Texans risking their lives to save each other.
“There were no party lines. There were no Republicans and Democrats. There wasn’t black and white and Hispanic and Asian. We were simply Texans helping Texans, standing as one, united and lifted up by prayers from millions across Texas, across the country, and across the world.
“I remember one gentleman I met. It was at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which had been stood up as a shelter for the many that had lost their homes. I was there one morning volunteering serving oatmeal. Next to me, someone else was volunteering serving oatmeal as well. And I said to him as I tried to say to many, many people throughout that tragedy, ‘Thank you, thank you for the difference you’re making. Thank you for helping out your fellow Texans. Thank you for being here.’ And I remember he laughed and he said, ‘Well, I’ve got to be here. My home is underwater. I don’t have another place to sleep.’ And even though he had gone to seek shelter, once he got there, he wasn’t content simply to receive aid and assistance. He wanted to help out.
“That was the spirit, the community that we saw all up and down the Gulf Coast.
“I remember visiting with two young boys. They were 8 and 10 years old. They were in their home when water rose to waist level and they had to be rescued by boat. I remember visiting with these boys and saying, ‘Was that scary? How are you doing?’ And both boys started laughing and said, ‘Are you kidding? We got to swim in our living room!’
“That kind of joy suffused dealing with the tragedy.
“Since the flood waters have receded, many, many families have returned home. Some bravely made a home in new surroundings. And the long, important work of rebuilding has continued.
“One year ago, you could take a boat through city streets. I still remember riding on a boat down Clay road, a road in northwest Houston. I became a Christian at Clay Road Baptist Church. Clay road was under 8 to 10 feet of water and I remember taking a boat over cars, over trucks, going right down the middle of Clay road.
“Today, our communities are coming back stronger than ever. Our businesses are once more a part of the Texas booming economy, and our neighborhoods ring with laughter and lawnmowers and barbeque grills.
“I am humbled and grateful to say, the amazing success of recovery has been helped by the willingness of Congress to recognize the extraordinary crisis caused by Harvey, and to step up in a bipartisan manner to address it.
“Since Harvey made landfall, Congress has appropriated over 140 billion dollars in emergency funding to respond to the 2017 hurricane season and to the California wildfires. Over three separate bills, we came together and made it possible to clean debris, to open schools, to rebuild homes for families, to give entire towns a new start.
“My colleague Senator Cornyn and I have worked hand in hand in each of these relief bills in the Senate, increasing the funds available to hurricane victims -- from those that originally come over from the House. Increasing the overall amount of funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood prevention projects, as well as for funding other mitigation activities under the Community Development Block Grant and the Disaster Recovery program.
“Last month, as part of this funding, the Army Corps announced that Texas would receive nearly 5 billion dollars for projects in the state, as part of its Disaster Supplemental Funding Plan. Projects dealing with long-term flood mitigation to prevent this sort of tragedy from occurring again, to rebuild in a way that is stronger and more resilient that protects homes and businesses and families. This means that roughly half of the relevant Army Corps construction funds will go to projects in Texas intended to help prevent future flooding events.
“The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded over 10 billion dollars in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds to Texas. These crucial funds will go a long way – and already have – to meeting the needs of Texans who are continuing to repair and to rebuild from Harvey.
“We also joined together to pass an emergency tax relief bill. I joined with Senator Cornyn and Senator Rubio, and together the Cruz-Cornyn-Rubio bill granted over 5 billion dollars in emergency tax relief to those who had been impacted by these hurricanes. Allowing people who had lost their homes or had seen devastating damage to their homes to deduct those damages from their taxes. Allowing people to take money from their retirement savings, their IRA’s, and their 401(k)s and use that savings to rebuild their home without paying the ordinary 10 percent early withdrawal fee. Giving a tax credit to employers, the many, many small businesses who kept the paychecks coming, even as the business may have been underwater, even as the employees couldn’t come into work because their homes and cars were flooded.
“Until recently, houses of worship had been excluded from federal disaster assistance just for being faith-based. That policy was wrong. It was discriminatory. Many religious institutions were badly damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Harvey.
“I remember visiting a synagogue in Meyerland, a neighborhood of Houston that had been flooded repeatedly and badly.
“I went to work with my colleagues introducing legislation to fix this problem. A few months later, FEMA announced a critical reversal in their policy so that houses of worship would no longer be discriminated against, and would be eligible for the same relief funds as everybody else.
“And then in February, our legislation codified FEMA’s decision into law, ensuring that religious institutions were not discriminated against. We protected the First Amendment rights of our churches, our temples, our synagogues, which had suffered so greatly in Harvey, and contributed so much to the relief efforts.
“You know, that was one of the striking things is how many people who were helping when they themselves had been damaged.
“Just over a week ago, I visited Ellington Base meeting with the Coast Guardsmen, the swimmers and pilots who had gone into harm's way, many of whom their own homes were under water. I visited with one Coast Guard pilot who had to walk through waist-high water to get to a parking lot where a helicopter could go and pick them up so they could fly and save others.
“That story over and over again was the story of Harvey.
“One year after Harvey’s devastation, the work continues. The Texas Gulf Coast continues to recover, and it will take years for the rebuilding to be complete. But as the Lone Star State rebuilds stronger than ever, we will keep moving forward.
“May we never forget the tragic days when Harvey hit our shores. But may we always remember the heroes who triumphed in the midst of the darkness. The brave men and women who were a light to their countrymen. They are the best of America—and they are the best of Texas.
“God bless them all. And may God continue to bless the Great State of Texas.”