Damage in Texas from Harvey re-opens GOP scabs over Hurricane Sandy relief

Even as President Donald Trump expressed confidence Monday that Congress would swiftly approve disaster aid to help Texas recover from damage associated with Hurricane Harvey, elbows were still being thrown among Republicans in Congress over the battle that broke out over recovery aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, after that storm struck the northeast in October 2012.

“I won’t abandon Texas the way Ted Cruz did New York,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), as he jabbed at his fellow GOP lawmakers – many of them more conservative, and from the South – who voted against Hurricane Sandy aid in early 2013.

“I will vote for emergency Harvey money for Ted Cruz’s constituents,” King tweeted. “Above all, true Americans must stand together,” as he proclaimed that New York “won’t abandon Texas.”

Those type of statements from Republicans in New York and New Jersey showed that fight over Sandy aid – from almost five years ago – clearly still rankles more moderate GOP lawmakers in the Congress, who don’t see eye to eye with Cruz and other conservatives on a variety of issues.

Asked in Texas about those shots from a fellow Republican, Cruz said now was not the time to debate what he labeled, “political sniping.”

But back in January of 2013, Republicans in Congress skirmished with each other repeatedly over emergency aid for victims of what many referred to as Superstorm Sandy – first on a bill to add more money to federal flood insurance coffers, and then on a broader disaster relief bill that included money for more than Sandy.

And it obviously hasn’t been forgotten by King and other GOP lawmakers in New York and New Jersey, who felt like they were being dumped on by their GOP colleagues, many of whom demanded offsetting budget cuts to pay for emergency disaster relief.

“Disasters and emergencies are just that…disasters & emergencies,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), whose district spans the southern part of the Garden State, which was hit hard by Sandy.

“Must stand together as Americans,” LoBidondo tweeted on Monday, as the New Jersey Republican say it was important not to be “hypocritical based on geography,” with LoBiondo joining King in expressing his frustration with Texas Republicans in the Congress.

Also getting involved in the GOP squabble was Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who famously took a lot of flak from inside the Republican Party after thanking President Obama for Sandy aid.

“The Congressional members in Texas are hypocrites,” the New Jersey Governor told reporters on Monday in the Garden State.

If you go back to January of 2013, there were two different relief bills related to Hurricane Sandy disaster aid – the first was a plan that refilled the coffers of the federal flood insurance program, something that needs to be done when Congress returns from its current August break.

While the Senate approved that measure without any dissenting votes, 67 Republicans in the House voted “No,” mainly because of concerns about allowing more money to flow into the federal flood insurance program, which is now $25 billion in the red, and in need of more taxpayer dollars before the end of September.

“The National Flood Insurance Program is broke,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) in that Sandy debate. “It is beyond broke. It is now taxpayer-bailout
broke.”

Despite his misgivings, Hensarling didn’t vote against allowing the flood insurance program to borrow more money to pay claims for Sandy victims – but over five dozen Republicans did object in the House to that bill.

And eight of those “No” votes were from Republicans in Texas.

The next week – January 15, 2013 – the House voted 241-180 for a second batch of Sandy aid totaling $50.4 billion, rejecting efforts by Republicans to pay for some of that disaster relief spending – some of it clearly not related to Sandy– with a package of budget cuts.

In the end, only 49 Republicans in the House voted for that second Sandy relief measure, mainly GOP lawmakers from north of the Mason-Dixon line, in California, and a handful from the Gulf Coast, whose districts had received help after Katrina.

Two weeks later, the Senate voted 62-36 for that plan, with a coalition that was just like the majority in the House – Democrats, plus some Republicans.

Two of the notable votes against that bill were Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

The lengthy effort to get that Sandy aid through the Congress – almost three months after the storm hit – compared to the rapid action on Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, left a bitter taste in the mouths of Republicans from the northeast, who saw a double standard from members of their own party.

And that aggravation is still there today, close to five years after those Sandy disaster aid votes.

New York and New Jersey Republicans may not abandon Texas in 2017 – but some of them are still mad about how they were dealt with on Sandy relief.

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