N.Y. lead­ers re­call Texas op­po­si­tion to Sandy re­lief

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Steve Peo­ples

NEW YORK » Repub­li­cans from New York and New Jersey are pledg­ing un­con­di­tional sup­port for those dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey. But their re­sent­ment lingers.

As his­toric f loods wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast, North­east­ern Repub­li­cans re­called with­painful de­tail the days af­ter Su­per­storm Sandy rav­aged their re­gion in 2012. At the time, Texas’ Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, over­whelm­ingly op­posed a dis­as­ter re­lief pack­age they ar­gued was packed with waste­ful spend­ing.

The de­bate de­layed the pas­sage

by sev­eral weeks. And five years later, an­other pow­er­ful nat­u­ral dis­as­ter has ex­posed lin­ger­ing re­sent­ment that un­der­scores re­gional di­vi­sions in a deeply di­vided Repub­li­can Party grap­pling with cri­sis.

“It was cruel, it was vi­cious, and some­thing that I’ll never for­get,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Tuesday. He said Texas Repub­li­cans held up the 2012 bill as part of “a po­lit­i­cal ploy against the North­east.”

“Hav­ing said that,” King added, “I don’t want the peo­ple of Texas to suf­fer.”

King’s com­ments were rep­re­sen­ta­tive of sev­eral New York and New Jersey Repub­li­cans in­ter­viewed by the AP who said they were still an­gry, but would not em­ploy the tac­tics of their Texas col­leagues as Congress awaits an ex­pected Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­quest for bil­lions of dol­lars of as­sis­tance. It may take weeks or months to sur­vey the dam­age, but early es­ti­mates sug­gest Har­vey could be one of the­most ex­pen­sive nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in U.S. his­tory.

“We’re not go­ing to hold it against those poor Tex­ans who need our help what their representatives tried to do to us back five years ago,” said Rep. Dan Dono­van, R-N.Y. “This is an Amer­i­can cri­sis and we come to the aid of our fel­low Amer­i­cans.”

It’s still un­clear how the con­ser­va­tive Texas del­e­ga­tion will ap­proach dis­as­ter funding when it af­fects their re­gion. Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters back home typ­i­cally trans­form Congress’ fis­cal con­ser­va­tives rail­ing about the deficit into fans of fed­eral spend­ing.

Sev­eral Texas Repub­li­cans did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Tuesday. Cruz’s of­fice said it was too soon to say whether he could pledge un­con­di­tional sup­port to a mas­sive di- saster as­sis­tance pack­age. In re­cent days, he has de­fended his op­po­si­tion to a $51 bil­lion Sandy re­lief bill he said was filled with “pork.”

The cur­rent dis­as­ter high­lights stark dif­fer­ences be­tween two wings of the Repub­li­can Party: more mod­er­ate North­east­ern Repub­li­cans, a group from which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hails, and those across the South and South­west, who of­ten ad­here to a rigid con­ser­va­tive ide­ol­ogy even, ap­par­ently, in times of cri­sis.

“When re­gions face se­ri­ous dis­as­ters caus­ing ex­ten­sive dam­age, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has an obli­ga­tion to as­sist with as­sets to address the emer­gency,” Cruz spokeswoman Cather­ine Fra­zier said. “Sen. Cruz strongly sup­ports this role of gov­ern­ment, but emer­gency bills should not be used for non-emer­gency spend­ing and that un­for­tu­nately is what made up nearly 70 per­cent” of the Sandy re­lief bill.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice found that the $51 bil­lion Sandy re­lief pack­age was dis­trib­uted rel­a­tively slowly, but vir­tu­ally all of the funding was re­lated to the storm or to pre­vent fu­ture dis­as­ters.

“I don’t want to re­visit who did or didn’t vote for the leg­is­la­tion then,” said Rep. Leonard Lance, RN. J. “I think it’s needed now, and I’ll be vot­ing for it when we re­turn to Wash­ing­ton.”

Lance, like other North­east­ern Repub­li­cans in­ter­viewed, dis­agreed with the Texas del­e­ga­tion’s in­sis­tence five years ago that fed­eral spend­ing for dis­as­ters should in­clude cor­re­spond­ing bud­get cuts else­where.

“The over­ar­ch­ing les­son is that we have the re­spon­si­bil­ity na­tion­ally to be in­volved in these sit­u­a­tions. And that one never knows where the next nat­u­ral dis­as­ter will oc­cur,” he said.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., was a state sen­a­tor back in 2012 when Sandy hit.

“Peo­ple’s lives were hang­ing in the bal­ance,” he re­called, turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Texas. “I am­fully, com­pletely com­mit­ted to do what­ever I can ... to as­sist.”

Zeldin added, “Re­gard­less of whether you’re a fel­low New Yorker or a Texan, we want to be as help­ful as pos­si­ble.”

Congress stepped for­ward with enor­mous aid pack­ages in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005 and Sandy, though some GOP con­ser­va­tives — in­clud­ing then-In­di­ana Rep. Mike Pence — chafed at the price tag. White House Bud­get Director Mick Mul­vaney, who will be re­spon­si­ble for pre­par­ing any dis­as­ter re­quest for Trump, op­posed the Sandy aid pack­age as a South Carolina con­gress­man, of­fer­ing a plan to cut else­where in the bud­get to pay for it.

Law­mak­ers pro­vided $110 bil­lion to re­build the Gulf Coast af­ter Ka­t­rina. The Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, po­lit­i­cally scalded by crit­i­cism over its botched re­sponse, signed off on the aid.

But New York and New Jersey law­mak­ers seek­ing help over Sandy en­coun­tered stiffer re­sis­tance.

King said he was speak­ing out now to “put down a marker” for Cruz and oth­ers who stood in the way of Sandy re­lief five years ago.

“If there was an­other nat­u­ral dis­as­ter,” King said, “we’re not go­ing to tol­er­ate what he did the last time.”

EVAN VUCCI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas in Cor­pus Christi, Texas, Tuesday. The Repub­li­cans of New York and New Jersey are pledg­ing un­con­di­tional sup­port for those dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in Texas.

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