Boehner chokes up over Oklahoma tornado

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA warning to Ryan’s successor: The Speakership is no cakewalk With Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election MORE (R-Ohio) choked up as he offered prayers for the people of Oklahoma on Tuesday after tornadoes that ripped through the state left dozens of people dead.

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“Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those in Oklahoma who were victimized by this storm, especially our colleague [Rep.] Tom Cole,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA warning to Ryan’s successor: The Speakership is no cakewalk With Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election MORE said at a press conference after a closed-door House Republican conference meeting. 

The tornado devastated Cole’s hometown of Moore, Okla., destroying a hospital, two elementary schools and killing at least 24 people, authorities said. Cole returned to Oklahoma on Tuesday morning.

Boehner and other Republican leaders pledged to help the communities rebuild, but the Speaker immediately faced questions about whether the House would seek to offset any new disaster aid with spending cuts, as conservatives have pushed for after other recent calamities.

“We’ll work with the administration on making sure that they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma,” Boehner said. 

The Speaker repeated his answer when pressed on the issue, and he deflected reporters' questions that were directed at Republican members of the Oklahoma delegation, who also attended the press conference.

The question of offsetting spending cuts for disaster aid divided the Republican conference in January after Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in late 2012. 

The majority of House Republicans voted against a $50 billion relief package, citing the lack of offsets, and drawing criticism from members of both parties who warned conservatives that the vote would haunt them if disaster struck their districts. 

Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnPension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism Republicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks MORE (R-Okla.) wants federal aid to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, according to multiple reports. 


Aides to the senator say he's been consistent on that position in previous Oklahoma disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing recovery effort. 

Coburn previously opposed sending federal disaster aid to states hit by Hurricane Sandy. 

Similarly Coburn's colleague, Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Overnight Energy: Former Pruitt aide alleges more wasteful spending, retaliation | Senate confirms EPA No. 2 | Zinke backs off big park fee increases Senate approves Trump’s pick for No. 2 at EPA MORE (R-Okla.) also voted against Sandy aid. In an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday Inhofe said aid for the Oklahoma tornado would be different. 

"That was totally different," Inhofe said. "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. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington D.C. Every one was getting in and exporting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen, in Oklahoma."

Daniel Strauss contributed

Updated at 11:30 a.m.