Sen. Coburn: 'Crass' to play politics with disaster relief

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In a six-point statement about the senator’s stance on aid to help the ravaged parts of his home state, a Coburn aide indicated the senator would oppose a federal emergency relief package if it is not offset with spending cuts elsewhere.

But the statement stressed that it's still unclear if a federal emergency aid package would be necessary.

The aide noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has $11.6 billion in its disaster relief fund. “We don’t know if that will be enough,” the aide wrote.

“Officials won’t be able to do a detailed damage assessment until rescue and recovery operations are complete,” the aide added.

Coburn has opposed disaster aid bills in the past, including last year’s package for Hurricane Sandy. The aide said Coburn’s opposition has stemmed from his belief that funding should be used to pay for disasters, and not as a “wish-list of parochial or backlogged priorities that have nothing to do with helping victims.”

If an additional package is necessary, the aide said Coburn will not change his long-standing opposition on offsets. “If the choice is between borrowing and reducing spending on largesse, we should divert funds from largesse to victims,” the aide said.

The aide said Coburn is on his way to Oklahoma to assess the damage.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who also opposed the Sandy relief package, said Tuesday there's a difference between the Sandy aid package and the one that would likely go to Oklahoma.

“They were getting things — for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey, they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there,” Inhofe said. “They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everyone was getting in and exporting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen in Oklahoma.”

Here is the Coburn aide's full statement:

1. It is crass for critics to play disaster aid politics when first responders are pulling victims from the rubble.

2. We don’t know if an emergency aid package will even be necessary. We do know that FEMA has $11.6 billion in its Disaster Relief Fund as of this morning. We don’t know if that will be enough.

3.  Dr. Coburn is on his way to Oklahoma now to assess the damage first-hand. In his capacity as the ranking member of the committee that oversees FEMA, he wants to ensure that the federal government responds in the most compassionate, effective and efficient way possible.

4. Officials won’t be able to do a detailed damage assessment until rescue and recovery operations are complete. We don’t know when that will occur.

5. Dr. Coburn has opposed disaster aid bills in the past because he believes disaster funding should be used to pay for disasters, not a wish-list of parochial or backlogged priorities that have nothing to do with helping victims.

6. If an additional emergency aid package is necessary Dr. Coburn will not change his long-standing position on offsets. Since the Oklahoma City bombing, Dr. Coburn has argued that supplemental bills should be paid for by reducing spending on less vital priorities. In other words, if the choice is between borrowing and reducing spending on largesse, we should divert funds from largesse to victims.