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Coburn: Talk of tornado aid without offsets is 'crass political game'

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday slammed calls that an aid package for tornado victims in his home state not be offset with other spending cuts.

In a heated exchange on MSNBC, Coburn defended his previous comments that Oklahoma may not need a supplemental aid package because of funds already in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's account. 

He also noted that the aid package for Oklahoma City after the 1995 terrorist bombing was offset with other spending cuts. 

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"You know the 1995 bombings in Oklahoma City — I was in Congress, we paid for that. We offset it, and paid for it," said Coburn, who voted against a relief package for Superstorm Sandy last year because he argued it was loaded up with unnecessary spending. 

"We made a priority choice of helping Oklahoma City by cutting spending somewhere else, and it's the lamest excuse in the world when we have at least $200 billion of waste, fraud and duplication to say 'oh my gosh we can't do that. We have to borrow the money' against the very kids you're saying you want to help," he said.

"So it's morally wrong. It's repugnant to me, and it's the lamest excuse politicians can use, and that's why our country's in trouble — that kind of thinking."

Coburn said its premature to talk about an aid package given FEMA's $11.6 billion account.

"It's a political game. There's nothing. There's $11.6 billion sitting in a bank account waiting to help people in Oklahoma," Coburn said. "This is all a game, and it's a crass political game because I was being asked these questions before we even pulled the dead people out of the rubble, so it's just typical Washington B.S. quite frankly.

Coburn then said damage in Oklahoma might be below what was needed for Joplin, Mo., which was hit in 2011 by a tornado.

"We're not going to need a bill. Most of the property damage was insured," Coburn said. "This'll be a $200, $250, maybe $300 million cost for the federal government out of the [FEMA] fund. Joplin was $190 million and they had more damage than we did. I mean it's the same old game — Washington creating a crisis when none exists so they can advantage themselves, and in fact we've got $11.6 billion sitting in the fund."

A day earlier, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who strongly criticized House Republicans after they delayed a vote on Sandy aid, said the New Jersey delegation should support whatever aid package President Obama thinks is appropriate for Oklahoma.

"I would urge all the members of the delegation — Republican and Democrat — to get behind whatever aid package the president believes is necessary to be able to help the people of Oklahoma as quickly as possible," Christie said.