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EDITORIAL — Elected leaders: Even OMB must obey law

Almost 500 days after Congress appropriated $4.3 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief money for Texas, that money lies captured at the Office of Management and Budget. In February, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote OMB to note that with the government shutdown concluding, Texas needs those dollars.

“… We write to urge expeditious approval of the rules” that would expedite funding, Cornyn wrote. Four months later, one might wonder:

  • What does “expeditious” mean to the people at OMB?
  • What’s the difference between the federal government being shut down or OMB being open, if the relief money doesn’t arrive?

In fairness to the agency, we called Washington for an explanation of why the funds were yet delayed. The phone rang twice at the public affairs office, then disconnected. We’ll take that as an answer. For all practical purposes, it’s the answer Congress has been getting since February 2018, when elected leaders approved funding.

Here’s what the money is intended to do:

  • Rebuild and enhance infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in August 2017.
  • Provide relief to families whose lives have been upended by the storms.
  • Make Texas coastal communities more resilient in the face of future storms.

That hasn’t happened.

“In that time, unelected bureaucrats held up these funds with lollygagging and excuses,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, said Thursday in an issued statement.

The storm was bad enough, the “largest rain event in American history,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor recently. Some parts of Texas are still recovering.

But, he added, you can’t measure the impact of the storm on individual lives and the lives of families, some who might never recover. And yet, OMB delays the aid they need for whatever recovery flood victims might experience.

Here’s the “rub,” Cornyn added: Congress passed it. President Trump signed it. It’s the law. Even the OMB ought to obey the law.

That’s why Cornyn in the Senate, Weber in the House, introduced legislation to force OMB to obey the law, as if that should be necessary. The president signed that, too. And $4.383 billion ought to be headed this way … finally.

That money won’t likely give Texans further chances to fortify themselves this year as we enter this hurricane season, which started last week. Maybe it will help when further hurricane seasons approach. It will effect other relief for coastal Texas communities.

Victimized by an unforgiving storm, the same Texans are being victimized by a Washington agency that seems to answer to no one. It should, within 90 days.

This coast, critical to oil and gas production, is vitally important to national prosperity. Our ports, of vital importance to our military, help protect this nation.

Our people deserve more compassion; our infrastructure more concern.

 

See also: U.S. Senate passes disaster aid bill that would release billions for Harvey housing aid