Ted Cruz has fallen into the trap of showing his bias and interests as a politician in the face of a horrible disaster. While the world still spins, Houston and other parts of Texas are currently flooded, badly in need of support from across the nation. That’s why it’s a good thing that someone like Ted Cruz is out there doing his part for the state. What’s not is how Cruz seemingly changed his tune from 2013 and his no vote on the Superstorm Sandy relief bill for people in New York and New Jersey.
He’s already faced plenty of criticism from citizens lying in wait to call out his hypocritical turn and released a statement trying to defend his vote at the time and why it stands apart from what he’s calling for in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The “pork” that gets stuffed into bills that mean well is a common occurrence in D.C. and is something that should be criticized. But quite a few questioned the true content of that bill and Cruz’s change of tune.
First he dropped in for a chat with Katy Tur on MSNBC where he accused the host of “political sniping” by bringing up the senator’s voting record. He then moved on to glossing over history a bit by saying the original bill had him “enthusiastic”:
“The accurate thing to say is that I and a number of others enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy,” the senator said on MSNBC. “The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork…it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster when people are hurting to pay for their own political wish list.”
As NJ.com points out, efforts to help out victims of Superstorm Sandy hit plenty of snags in both the House and the Senate back in 2013. Focusing on Texas in particular, eight GOP representatives from the state voted against a plan to provide a $9.7 billion increase to FEMA’s ability to borrow from the National Flood Insurance. It eventually passed through Congress, but it was a look at what would come with the large $60 billion plan and the fight to get it through.
This is the bill that Cruz claims was stuffed with pork and faced plenty of challenges passing, even earning the criticism of Governor Chris Christie in a press conference where he called the debate “disgusting to watch.” So why the debate? There was indeed extra added to the bill, but the details would hardly have you screaming “pork” outside of using it as a general term. Around $48 billion was for direct action to aid those hit by Sandy, leaving other funds to go into the general FEMA disaster fund, the National Flood Insurance Program, the Army Corp Of Engineers, and towards fixing New York City’s subway system. So what is this apparent pork that Cruz couldn’t vote for?
At the time, in an effort to court votes, Democrats broadened some of their bill’s provisions to cover damage from Hurricane Isaac, which struck the Gulf Coast earlier that year. A provision was added to the $2.9 billion allotted to Army Corps of Engineers projects to reduce future flooding risks. The coverage area for that program included areas hit by Isaac in addition to Sandy. Democrats also shifted $400 million into a community development program for regions suffering disasters, beyond areas struck by Sandy.
Other Republican lawmakers called for cuts in federal spending to offset the Sandy package.
This is nearly 10 years after Katrina, an event you’d think would open eyes and change opinions on our national response to catastrophe. But that didn’t seem to be the case and as Chris Christie pointed out at the time, it took 66 days for the funds to pass. NJ.com adds that all Texas congressmen at the time voted against the bill except one and 36 other GOP senators also voted against the bill.
Will we get a repeat now that Ted Cruz and others are seeking the money? Or will it be a lesson learned? Either way, people seem poised to at least make sure the message is heard.