Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) an "idiot" on Monday, accusing him of downplaying the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On Friday, Reid said that "the people of New Orleans they were hurt, but nothing in comparison to what happened to the people of New England." Reid made the comments in a speech pressing House Republicans to take up two measures to provide additional aid for recovery efforts from the storm which battered eastern states in November.
Vitter, though, said the remarks were an insult to the destruction left by Katrina on Gulf states.
"Sadly, Harry Reid has again revealed himself to be an idiot, this time gravely insulting Gulf Coast residents," Vitter said in a statement. "Both Katrina and Sandy were horribly destructive storms that caused real human misery. And by most any measure, Katrina was our worst natural disaster in history."
Reid's office defended the majority leader’s remark, saying he was referring to the "economic impact in a more dense metropolitan area" when Sandy struck the New York area, rather than the overall damage of the respective storms.
Later Monday afternoon, Reid released a statment saying he had "misspoke."
"In my recent comments criticizing House Republicans for threatening to betray Congress' tradition of providing aid to disaster victims in a timely fashion regardless of region, I simply misspoke," Reid said. "I am proud to have been an advocate for disaster victims in the face of Republican foot-dragging, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, from fires in the west to tornadoes in the Midwest."
President Obama on Sunday signed a $9.7 billion bill to allow the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to take on new debt in order to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The House is expected to vote on another $51 billion measure to provide additional disaster funding later this month.
— This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.