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Senator Ted Cruz on the Latest Damage in Houston

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The audio:

08-29hhs-cruz

The transcript:

HH: Joined now by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, good morning, thanks for joining us. I was just talking with Vernon Loeb from last hour, replaying it. It, this is a catastrophe beyond anyone’s remembering.

TC: It, this is a 500 year storm. It is unlike anything Texas has ever seen before. I mean, we’re a state that you know, I grew up in Houston, and we’ve seen a number of hurricanes. That’s part of living on the Gulf Coast. But we’ve never seen anything like this, what Harvey has done, and after impacting as a category 4 storm and wreaking incredible wind damage. Harvey has essentially parked on the coast, parked over the city of Houston, and has dumped about 50 inches of rain over the course of four days. Normally, a hurricane hits and leaves. But the flooding that is coming from just non-stop rain has truly been devastating.

HH: Our mutual friends, Tiny and Steve, sent me a picture of their church that they recently left when he came back to join the administration. It’s completely flooded out, and that’s just one miniature story, Ted Cruz. You must be hearing and seeing, Senator, thousands of them.

TC: Well, we are. We’re seeing life-threatening and life-defying rescues. We’re seeing stories of incredible heroism of first responders, of firefighters and police officers making helicopter rescues and boat rescues. And we’re seeing National Guardsmen and Coast Guardsmen. And you know, we’re seeing hundreds upon hundreds of just ordinary men and women. Early on, the call went out to residents of Houston. If you have a flat-bottom boat, if you can help save your neighbors, please do so. And yesterday, I was at the Harris County Emergency Operations Center, that an entire wall was covered with post-it’s with the names and numbers of all the people who called in and said yeah, I’ve got a boat, I can help. And the center was operating essentially as a dispatch center and would just say okay, well, your neighbor at this address is in trouble. Can you go get them? And thousands of people have been saved both by our first responders and just incredibly brave citizens. And it’s really inspirational to see.

HH: Now Vernon Loeb told me yesterday, yesterday alone, 8,000 high water recues. That has not been communicated. I’m a little concerned that the media, while the North Korea launch is a serious deal, is so caught up with the pull of Trump that the President’s controversial actions are diverting attention from something that should be 24/7. I don’t think we can over-cover what’s going on in Houston, do you?

TC: Well, it’s the magnitude of the tragedy of the losses to date, hopefully, we think the human losses have been somewhat contained, although no one has an accurate toll of that until the waters recede. I mean, there are many, many cars that are just covered with water, and we hope and pray that we’re not going to find bodies in those. But I can tell you I spent much of the morning yesterday at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been turned into a refugee home, and it had capacity for 5,000 people. My understanding is as of this morning, over 9,000 people were there spending the night. And you know, I spent the morning just visiting with them, helping serve them chili, and distribute clothes to them. And you know, these are people who have been through harrowing experiences. Most of them have come through some form of high water rescue, or at least a great many of them have. And to a person, Hugh, it was really striking, the sentiment they expressed was just gratitude, gratitude to be alive. You know, after seeing your home flooded our your car flooded and all your possessions, your wedding pictures gone, what they were thinking about was not what they lost. What they were thinking about was their incredible gratitude for what they have. And at the end of the day, the only thing that’s really irreplaceable is human life and your family.

HH: Now Senator Cruz, if you can focus on that now, we are partnering across Salem Media with Save The Children, and Save The Children banners are at Hughhewitt.com. And they’re rushing cribs and diapers and you know, potties and all that kind of stuff that babies and toddlers need. What is the situation like inside the convention center, because we all remember the Superdome during Katrina was not policed efficiently. And some of the horror stories were overstated, but it was nevertheless kind of a disaster. Is the convention center in Houston functioning well?

TC: It is. I will say there was a very strong police presence all day, which I think was just helpful. They had, as of mid-day, very few security incidents at all, and I think part of that is deterrence. There’s just a sizeable and very visible police presence, which discourages bad conduct. But look, as any crisis goes on, as people get stressed as you put people together, I mean, they had one big room which had people with their pets, because you know, a lot of people have their pets, and they didn’t have kennels. So I was asking you know, have you had problems with dogs fighting each other. They hadn’t, yet. But you know, the longer you have a lot of people in crisis together, the more likely you are going to have some challenges.

HH: So we’ve got the Brazos River cresting today, and the Addicks Reservoir within a foot of its 108 foot top. We’re not through this, yet. What does your federal national weather service people tell you about Houston and Galveston? You’ve got lots of constituents still in the middle of this thing.

TC: Very much so. We are not through this. It, you know, I’m in Houston right now. It rained all night. It just stopped raining a minute ago, but it’s that sort of in the pattern as you’ve got a couple hours break, and the rain kept coming. They are expecting this storm to bounce back into the Gulf of Mexico and then come back at us. And next in the target is anticipated to be Beaumont just to the east of Houston to get some heavy rain. But the rains will continue at least through today, and potentially for another couple of days. And so that is a real challenge, but it’s one that we can overcome, and we will overcome. And we’re seeing day by day incredible stories of just bravery and of Texans coming together helping each other. And so that, that’s inspirational despite the enormous magnitude of the flooding and devastation.

HH: President Trump just tweeted leaving now for Texas! He is coming down there. Will you be joining him today, Senator?

TC: Well, I hope I will. And that is the plan. He is coming to Corpus Christi. I am, as we speak, getting into a pickup truck and driving, trying to drive to Corpus Christi from Houston. What I don’t know is if I’ll be able to make it. The freeways have all been flooded out, and so yesterday, our governor, Governor Abbott, went to Corpus, and I had intended to go join them, and yesterday it simply wasn’t feasible. There were no roads out of Houston that could get there.

HH: Now talk to me, last couple of minutes, what do you expect Congress to do? We obviously have an epic loss of economic activity, Senator.

TC: Sure.

HH: It’s going to be vast. What do you want Congress to do, and how quickly do you want them to do it?

TC: Well, I’m sure when we return there’s going to be a careful assessment of what the magnitude of the damage is, you know, where there are different phases to a crisis. The phase we’re in right now is still the active crisis. The rains and floods are continuing, and will continue for at least another day or two. And so right now, the top priority of everyone is preservation of life. You know, several days ago, the mayor of Houston and the county judge of Harris County both told me that they did not have sufficient assets to do high water rescues. They didn’t have enough boats and choppers and high water trucks. And so I spent much of the rest of that day on the phone with federal officials doing everything I could to martial those assets. And so we ended up, you know, the governor sent over 500 DPS troopers to Texas, called up 3,000 National Guardsmen and sent them to Texas, sent helicopters and boats to Texas, and I spoke to the President and the Vice President, and several cabinet secretaries, and we martialed FEMA officials, Coast Guardsmen, and we even brought up Customs and Border Patrol agents who have high water rescue teams. They came up from the Rio Grande Valley bringing with them flat-bottom boats and jet skis. And so we were putting the assets on the ground to focus on high water rescue. Once the crisis subsides, the next step is recovery. And it’s going to be assessing the magnitude of the damage. By any measure, it is going to be billions upon billions of dollars just in terms of the homes and businesses and everything that’s been lost and in infrastructure. That assessment will proceed, and there’s a formal process with FEMA. And then I think it’s quite likely you will see Congressional legislation addressing the emergency and helping provide funding for rebuilding. But that will be a step down the road after the crisis has subsided and we’re in the process of rebuilding.

HH: Last question for you, Senator, I know you’ve got to get going. The Houston schools are going to be wrecked. I’ve been looking at the flooding of schools large and small. Have you talked to Betsy DeVos, yet, about how the Department of Education is going to be able to, it’s going to be like Katrina where they have to redo the entire school system, basically.

TC: Well, Betsy has reached out, and one of the things that’s really impressive about the administration is across the administration, they are looking at each aspect of this. So I mean, I’ve had conversations with the head of the Department of Homeland Security, with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Labor Secretary, as you mentioned, the Education Secretary. They’re looking at all the different aspect of this. This is, there’s no doubt that schooling this week, all of the schools in Houston have, are having no school this week. And they’re planning to be back the Tuesday after Labor Day. My girls, who are 1st and 4th grade, they were two days into school when they discovered they had an unplanned week-long off. We’re going to have to assess how much physical damage there is to the schools. We obviously hope that the flooding and damage to the schools will be minimized, but the schools that are damaged, we’re going to have to martial resources, or if they’re not usable, find alternative venues, because obviously, the kids will continue to be receiving the education they need.

HH: Senator Ted Cruz, good luck to you today in navigating those roads, and we’ll check in with you again. I appreciate you taking the time and helping us raise awareness of what’s going down there, and we’ll continue to raise money from Americans’ generous pockets. Thank you, my friend. Be safe.

TC: Hugh, I appreciate it. Thank you for the prayers of Americans all across the country. Texans, we really appreciate it.

HH: Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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