The tornado that hit Oklahoma on Monday resulted in more than 20 deaths and is expected to cost the federal government untold billions of dollars in aid and recovery. But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has long objected to federal funds being spent on everything from veterans benefits to relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is already insisting that any additional appropriations should be paid for with cuts elsewhere. “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”
Indeed, during his time in Congress, Coburn has portrayed his efforts to rein in federal spending as a principled stance against accumulating larger deficits and passing debt to future generations. But Coburn hasn’t always opposed government spending that is not offset by budget cuts. The senator known as “Doctor No” has voted to fund the war in Iraq, the 2008 bank bail out, and even relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
– 2005: The “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act” (H.R. 1268) provided $82 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2006: The Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R.2863) provided approximately $40 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2006: “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,” (H.R. 4939 ) provided $72 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2005: After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Congress passed two relief bills, allocating more than $50 billion and allowing the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow more money. One of the measures was adopted byunanimous consent and Coburn voted for the other.
– 2006: Congress approved a Department of Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5631), including approximately $70 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted forthe measure.
– 2008: In October 2008, the Bush Administration and Congress enacted a rescue package to stabilize the financial system by creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Coburn voted in favor of the measure.
By insisting that funding for tornado relief be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, Coburn representing his ideological purity rather than the needs of his Oklahoma constituents.
31 Senate Republicans Opposed Sandy Relief After Supporting Disaster Aid For Home States | ThinkProgress
When the Senate passed the long-delayed $50.5 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package Monday, 36 Republicans voted against the bill. But of the 32 no-votes from Senators who are not brand-new members, at least 31 came from Republicans who had previously supported emergency aid efforts following disasters in their own states.
Most incredible among the no voters were Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Those two had not just backed disaster aid in the past — they actually sought disaster aid for their own states for relief from Hurricane Sandy. And Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) endorsed disaster relief for snow storms damages in Arkansas just four days before casting his “nay” vote.
The “hypocritical” list includes:
1. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH): Requested disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy.
2. John Barrasso (R-WY), Republican Policy Committee Chair: Requested disaster aid after flooding.
3. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Republican Conference Vice Chair: Demanded the Senate be called back from recess to pass disaster aid during a drought and boasts: “When a disaster surpasses the ability of states and communities to rebuild, Senator Blunt believes the federal government should prioritize spending to help the people whose lives and livelihoods are impacted. During his time in the Senate, he has fought tirelessly to ensure that Missouri gets its fair share of those federal resources specifically dedicated to disaster recovery.”
4. John Boozman (R-AR): Requested disaster aid after snow storms in January 2013.
5. Richard Burr (R-NC): Requested disaster aid after severe storms.
6. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): Requested disaster aid after flooding.
7. Dan Coats (R-IN): Requested disaster aid after tornadoes.
8. Tom Coburn (R-OK): Requested disaster aid after winter storms and for extreme drought.
9. Bob Corker (R-TN): Requested disaster aid after flooding and asked for supplemental emergency flood relief.
10. John Cornyn (R-TX), Republican Minority Whip: Demanded drought relief aid and requested disaster aid for wildfires.
11. Mike Crapo (R-ID): Boasted of obtaining a FEMA fire safety grant and pushed for a bill providing emergency drought relief.
12. Mike Enzi (R-WY): Requested disaster relief after flooding.
13. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Requested disaster relief after freezing and boasted of obtaining emergency drought relief.
14. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): Requested disaster relief after severe hail storms.
15. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Requested disaster relief after flooding.
16. James Inhofe (R-OK): Boasted of obtaining disaster relief after severe storms and drought.
17. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): Requested disaster aid after flooding.
18. Mike Johanns (R-NE): Requested disaster relief after flooding and blasted Democrats for “inaction on disaster relief” for drought and wildfires.
19. Ron Johnson (R-WI): Requested disaster relief after a blizzard.
20. Mark Kirk (R-IL): Appealed after FEMA denied assistance following severe storms and tornadoes.
21. Mike Lee (R-UT): After calling federal disaster relief unconstitutional, endorsed relief aid after flooding in Utah.
22. John McCain (R-AZ): Endorsed disaster relief after flooding.
23. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Minority Leader: Requested disaster relief during a drought and after tornadoes.
24. Jerry Moran (R-KS): Requested disaster relief after tornadoes.
25. Rand Paul (R-KY): Requested disaster relief during a drought and after tornadoes.
26. Rob Portman (R-OH): Endorsed disaster relief during a drought and after storms.
27. Pat Roberts (R-KS): Boasted of obtaining disaster relief after drought and wildfires and criticized the Bush administration for inadequate emergency relief after a blizzard.
28. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Requested disaster relief after severe freezing.
29. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): Requested disaster relief after tornadoes and during a drought.
30. John Thune (R-SD), Republican Conference Chair: Requested disaster relief after flooding and snow storms.
31. Pat Toomey (R-PA): Requested disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy before it even hit landfall.
Not one of the opponents has co-sponsored Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) “Extreme Weather Prevention and Resilience Act” which would encourage Congress to “prepare and protect communities from extreme weather, sea-level rise, drought, flooding, wildfire, and other changing conditions exacerbated by carbon pollution” and “reducing pollution, promoting the use of clean energy sources, and improving energy efficiency.”
ThinkProgrss previously reported that at least 37 House Republicans who opposed Sandy relief had also supported disaster aid for their home states.
Vote all these morons out in 2014, 2016, or 2018!
BREAKING: US Senate votes to approve $50.5 billion in disaster aid for Superstorm Sandy victims
US Senate votes to approve $50.5 billion disaster aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy - @reuters— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) January 28, 2013
BREAKING: Superstorm Sandy aid package approved by US House
Breaking: House approves Sandy aid package - wp.me/p4HKM-18hO— CNN Political Ticker (@PoliticalTicker) January 16, 2013
BREAKING: US House has voted to pass $9.7 billion in Sandy relief funds
House of Representatives passes bill to give $9.7 billion in Sandy relief funds to flood insurance program - live video bit.ly/UolRMr— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) January 4, 2013
After major disasters struck the U.S. last year, Mitt Romney suggested closing FEMA, the emergency response agency, so that states could have greater control over disaster relief. “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better,” Romney said during a GOP presidential debate in June 2011.
Those words came back to haunt him, though, as Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast and left at least $20 billion in damage in its wake. At first, the Romney campaign vaguelystood by Romney’s plan to get rid of FEMA and put states in charge of disaster relief. And one GOP strategist defended Romney’s idea to dismantle FEMA. But as Politico notes, the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign now insists that Romney would keep FEMA in place:
“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”
A campaign official added that Romney would not abolish FEMA.
Basically, this is exactly how the system works now. But federal emergency response could be hampered by the GOP ticket’s budget proposals, which stipulate that the government should only disburse disaster relief funding if Congress agreed to offsetting budget cuts elsewhere.
With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the entire east coast, it’s worth remembering back to when Mitt Romney was in his severely conservative primary phase. He told CNN’s John King during the June 13, 2011 Republican presidential primary debate that federal disaster relief was “immoral” because deficit.
Severely conservative Mitt also picked severely conservative Paul Ryan for his running mate, the guy who attempted to cut a new disaster aid fund that “budgets help for victims of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods before they occur.” Luckily for the entire east coast this week, party leadership nixed that idea.
But what happens with the next monster storm under Romney/Ryan? The Ryan budget, fully embraced by Romney, would make such deep cuts in federal funding that disaster relief would have to be passed on to states and localities. Romney,which is specifically what he is saying should happen in that clip. But funding for states and localities is also so sharply curtailed that they’ll be hard pressed to respond to disasters. Which, as he made clear at the debate, is exactly what will force his ultimate goal: privatizing disaster relief.
The federal government’s ability to respond to natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy currently bearing down on the East Coast, would be significantly hindered under a Romney-Ryan administration.
At least three times, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly demanded that the federal government only disburse disaster relief funding if Congress agreed to offsetting budget cuts elsewhere. This would hold desperately-needed disaster relief funding hostage unless Congress agreed to cuts elsewhere in the budget, an extraordinarily difficult prospect even in normal circumstances.
Though GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) became the public face of such intransigence in the wake of natural disaster last year, Romney and Ryan have repeatedly made clear they agree with Cantor’s position.
Last year, after a major tornado and flood struck the United States, Romney was asked in a debate about federal disaster relief funding. Romney not only suggested shuttering FEMA and sending responsibility for disaster relief “back to the private sector,” but also said it would be “immoral” for the federal government to fund disaster relief efforts without cutting the budget elsewhere. “It makes no sense at all,” Romney concluded.
Ryan’s 2012 budget took a similar approach to disaster funding. As The Hill noted in May 2012, Ryan’s budget called for any disaster relief funding to “be fully offset within the discretionary levels provided in this resolution.”
This is not a new position for Ryan. Long before he entered the political limelight, Ryan was still pushing a similar line on disaster funding. In a March 23, 2004 speech on the House floor, Ryan proposed that any emergency spending legislation, including disaster relief, be automatically offset by an “across-the-board” budget cut.