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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coburn and Coolidge

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) will insist that any federal aid to deal with the tornado in his home state must be offset by budget cuts.
“He will ask his colleagues to sacrifice lower priority areas of the budget to help Oklahoma,” spokesman John Hart said. Should other Republicans join Coburn, it could set up a fight similar to the January tug-of-war over Hurricane Sandy funding. That aid package was delayed by GOP opposition and ultimately passed with mostly Democratic support.
In a statement, Coburn said that “as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”
Coburn was against the Sandy relief package, as well as 2011 legislation to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster fund. His office has noted that the 1995 aid for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing was balanced by cuts to unspent appropriations. However, he did ask for expedited FEMA aid in 2007, when an ice storm hit his state.
His position recalls that of President Coolidge.  Amity Shlaes writes:
The Hurricane Katrina of the Coolidge years, the great Mississippi River flood of 1927, wiped out many areas of the South. Yet Coolidge pointedly chose not to visit the devastated areas—sending Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover in his place—out of concern that a presidential visit might encourage the idea of federal spending on disaster relief, for which there were already advocates in Congress. This triggered resentment, which Senator Thaddeus Caraway of Arkansas expressed in personal terms: “I venture to say that if a similar disaster had affected New England the President would have had no hesitation in calling an extra session. Unfortunately he was unable to visualize the situation.” But soon thereafter floods tore across Vermont, the state where Coolidge had spent his childhood, and calls for him to visit grew loud—to no avail. “He can’t do for his own, you see, more than he did for the others,” as one Vermonter explained. Vermont, like Arkansas, would have to recover without federal intervention.