Texas Republicans getting flak for early opposition to relief for Hurricane Sandy, say they will seek relief funds for Harvey

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. AP file photo.


Some Texas Republicans are getting some heat for their opposition in 2013 to relief funds for Hurricane Sandy, even as they discuss the need for billions in damage that Hurricane Harvey could do to the Texas coast.

But the opposition to the Sandy bill, from Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as Rep. Louie Gohmert, was about the massive amount of unrelated spending added to the package, not to disaster relief for New Jersey and New York.

Sen. Ted Cruz was a candidate at the time, and while he wasn't in the Senate yet to vote, he did voice his opposition to that first Sandy bill.

On Sunday, New York Congressman Peter King tweeted about his Republican colleagues, "Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/NJ aid after Sandy but I'll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY won't abandon Texas. 1 bad turn doesn't deserve another."

But those Texas Republicans say their opposition wasn't to aid, but to the bloated bill that then-House Speaker John Boehner put together.

Gohmert said he voted against the aid because the bill was flawed and filled with pork-barrel spending.

"In the 113th Congress of 2013, I voted against H.R. 152, a supposedly emergency spending bill to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, but at least half was not to provide assistance to the Hurricane Sandy victims or was not emergency spending," Gohmert said in an emailed statement. "I would have gladly supported appropriations for actual emergency relief, but I could not in good conscience support something that would have been a spending spree for unrelated programs."

He said the bill, which authorized $50.5 billion in spending, included such expenditures as salary increases for the FBI and other expenses that should go through annual appropriations such as Head Start.

He said Congress should not pack so much non-emergency spending into an emergency relief bill and he is confident the current administration will make sure the emergency spending this time addresses "the real emergency."

Cruz also opposed the larger aid package.

"Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief," Cruz said in 2013. "Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy. Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start."

In fact, only about a third of that initial bill was for disaster relief.

"This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington - an addiction to spending money we do not have," Cruz said at the time. "The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt."

Cornyn spokesman Drew Brandywine responded to King's tweet with a tweet of his own Sunday night. He said Cornyn never opposed disaster relief; he voted in favor of a more limited package in 2012.

"He [Cornyn] voted for Sandy relief, just not the package that became law," Brandywine said. "Final incl extraneous $ for non-relief items."

Cruz spokesperson Catherine Frazier also tweeted about the issue.

"This is so ridiculous," she wrote. "Sandy bill funded billions unrelated to disaster aid. Fed assistance is appropriate to directly fund recovery."

Harvey came ashore near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of up to 130 miles per hour. As the storm stalled over South Texas, flooding began in the region and in the areas under Harvey's rain bands - particularly in and around Houston.

Officials say there's no way to estimate the damage totals yet.


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