Oklahoma Politicians Who Voted Against Sandy Relief Are Asking For Tornado Relief
May 25, 2013
Lawmakers have pledged to send aid to tornado-devastated Oklahoma quickly, but the state's Republican lawmakers -- six of whom voted against disaster aid after Superstorm Sandy -- may be forced to reckon with their past votes against emergency disaster funding.
Oklahoma's two Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, opposed a bill that provided more than $60 billion in emergency aid after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast. In addition, three members of Oklahoma's House delegation joined with most Republicans in opposing the legislation.
Nearly all of the lawmakers have pledged that whatever assistance Oklahomans need will be provided, but the devil will be in the details.
"When a disaster occurs in America and emotions are high, everybody all of a sudden wants to pour money on it," Inhofe said on the Senate floor in 2012.
Asked about his past vote against Sandy funding, Inhofe said that funding for tornado relief would be "totally different."
"That was totally different," Inhofe said on MSNBC this morning.
But the $60.4 Sandy relief bill, which languished in Congress because of opposition from Republican lawmakers, may be a cautionary tale.
The public fight over funding pitted congressional Republicans against one of their party's rising stars, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and even some members of their own caucus from the Northeast whose states were affected by the massive storm.
In the heated rhetoric over the bill, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Republicans were betraying New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.
"I'm saying right now ... anyone from New York and New Jersey [who] contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," King said on Fox News in January. "Because what [they] did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It's an absolute disgrace."
"We know the type of suffering that people go through during these types of crises and we’re not going to hold – I’m certainly not going to hold the good people of Oklahoma hostage because they may have some hypocrites in their delegation,” King told WCBS 880?s Steve Scott on Wednesday.
"We had to wait over 100 days before we even got the aid approved to New York and New Jersey. Now, we find the senator from Oklahoma who voted against aid to New York and New Jersey saying that aid should be sent to Oklahoma because there’s a difference between tornado assistance and hurricane assistance,” King told Scott. “This is absolute hypocrisy.”
It is perhaps in light of that public intraparty meltdown that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, this morning would not answer questions about whether Republicans would demand that Oklahoma relief funds also be paid for.
"We'll work with the administration on making sure that they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma," Boehner said repeatedly in answer to questions from reporters.
So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has about $11 billion in its disaster relief fund and a final tallying of the cost of rebuilding parts of Oklahoma likely won't be finished for weeks.