The U.S. House passed a measure Thursday morning that would lift tax penalties on Hurricane Harvey victims who tap into their retirement accounts and offer them other tax breaks. But once again, the vote was far from unanimous, and a crew of Texas congressmen voted against the bill.
While Texans would think that in a situation like Hurricane Harvey, a historic and devastating storm that ripped across the Gulf Coast, politicians would take off their partisan hats and vote for a bill that simply helps the storm victims, without letting politics get into it, this was not the case.
But as we have already noted before, that's not how these chapters actually play out. Shortly after the storm, a few Texas Republican congressmen, mostly from up north, voted against a bill providing aid for the cities hit by Harvey. It wasn't cute when the Republicans did it, and it is no more endearing now that a band of Texas Democrats has done it.
Now it's the Democrats' turn to balk at a Harvey-related bill based on reasons that just seem completely ridiculous in face of the sheer loss victims of the storm and its floods have already sustained.
Texas Representative Kevin Brady cooked up a bill that would offer Harvey victims the chance to get into retirement accounts without penalties, allow hurricane victims to receive tax deductions on personal losses from the storm and ease penalties for those who pull money from their retirement accounts to cover storm-related costs.
Now, this bill isn't quite as clear-cut as the Harvey relief bill was. In this case, some other items, including reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and funding for more random programs, like a Native American diabetes program, were also tacked onto the proposed legislation, as the Texas Tribune noted.
The Texas Republicans backed the bill, along with the House Democrats from Houston — Representatives Al Green, Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, and a few Democrats from South Texas, including Representatives Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela.
There were two from the Texas congressional delegation who didn't vote — Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, and Sam Johnson, a Richardson Republican — which is fine, more or less.
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But four Texas Democrats voted against the bill, Representatives Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Beto O'Rourke of El Paso and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, a move that plays as completely ridiculous in the wake of Harvey's destruction.
Even more troubling were their reasons, or the sheer lack of substantial reasons for voting against the bill, which ranged from being displeased that the tax breaks did not include other natural disasters, to being irked because the bill was being passed as an emergency measure and there weren't a lot of hearings, to just being against it because it didn't extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump has announced he intends to end next year if Congress doesn't find a legislative way of saving the program.
All are, let's say, interesting reasons for opposing a bill that would help Texans hit most badly by the storm work on the process of recovering from this blow without the government getting such a big cut. There's a time for playing politics, but this is not that time.
Despite the votes against the bill, it moved through the House and slid through the Senate by Thursday evening.