In the wake of the devastating tornado and deadly weather that swept across Oklahoma on Monday, disaster relief for citizens is a top priority. But for Oklahoma politicians, and many others across southern red states, disaster relief is often seen as an extravagance, unless the funding is going to their home states.
Unfortunately for the citizens of these disaster-prone states, their elected officials believe there should always be stipulations to aiding victims in need.
Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans from Oklahoma, are known for repeatedly voting against disaster aid for victims in other parts of the country. Both politicians also voted against funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), even at a point when the agency was teetering on the edge of running out of money, according to The Center for Public Integrity.
In fact, Senator Coburn went so far as to say that to do so would be “unconscionable.” Both Inhofe and Coburn, along with other red state politicians, like those from Texas, have continually stipulated that FEMA should only receive funding if the costs were offset by cuts elsewhere, despite the fact that their states are the top two disaster-prone states in the country, and account for more than a quarter of declared disasters since 2009, according to FEMA’s disaster designations.
Senator Coburn, who opposed Sandy relief because it did not identify spending cuts to offset the cost, said that the relief legislation should be closely examined, and “hard choices” made to find out “what works and what doesn’t, and what’s a priority and what’s not.” His office has reported that he would also oppose a federal emergency relief package to help his ravaged home state if it is not offset with spending cuts somewhere else, The Hill reported.
The Senators also opposed disaster relief after hurricane Sandy, along with 36 other Republicans, at least 31 of whom had previously supported emergency aid efforts for disasters that occurred in their home states, according to ThinkProgress. These politicians complained that the Hurricane Sandy relief package contained too much “pork,” and Inhofe in particular claimed that the FEMA’s disaster relief proposal for Sandy looked like a “slush fund.”
Senator Inhofe is now scrambling to say that the disaster relief effort after Hurricane Sandy was a “totally different situation” from the one his state now faces, The Washington Post reported today. “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.