Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback'

Senate Republicans say Democrats are holding up a disaster relief package over funding for Puerto Rico to exact revenge on GOP senators who voted against aid for Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' Biden calls on Trump to appoint coronavirus 'supply commander' Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE’s home state of New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Georgia Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonLoeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic Loeffler under fire for stock trades amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden riding wave of momentum after stunning Super Tuesday MORE (R) told reporters on Tuesday that the lead Democratic negotiator, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Mnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus MORE (Vt.), reminded him of his vote against disaster relief for New York and New Jersey more than six years ago in a recent conversation that grew heated.

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“The senator from Vermont called me last Friday and said, ‘I want to show you something,’ so he sent over this two-page spread on that vote. Of the 37 'no' votes, I was one of them,” Isakson said when asked whether Democrats are stalling disaster relief for Georgia and other Republican states to exact revenge.

Republican senators are pointing to that conversation as evidence that the impasse over a pending disaster relief package for Midwestern and Southern states, as well as Puerto Rico, is part of a political vendetta by Democrats.

Isakson was one of 36 Republican senators who in early 2013 voted against a $51 billion package to provide relief to New York, New Jersey and other states hit by Sandy in the fall of 2012.

Georgia’s other senator at the time, Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissGOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R), and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Confusion surrounds launch of 9B in small-business loans Trump officials report billions in small business loans on first day of program MORE (R), whose home state of Florida also stands to benefit from the pending disaster relief bill, also voted against the Sandy package.

“It’s Sandy payback,” said a senior GOP senator on Tuesday, echoing similar accusations by other Senate GOP sources.

A spokesman for Leahy declined to comment on what he called “insinuation and guesswork.”

The aide noted that Republicans objected to an amendment proposed by Schumer and Leahy that would have funded all of Georgia’s disaster aid request.

Republicans also rejected on April 1 an amendment sponsored by Leahy that would have provided aid for natural disasters that have occurred this year.

Schumer said he remembers GOP colleagues who voted against disaster relief for New York, but stressed that all areas of the country should be treated the same, including Puerto Rico.

“We’ve lived with that. Some of our Republican friends [are] desperate for disaster aid when it’s their states and don’t help other states. Democrats have not done that. We believe we all ought to pull together and help American citizens, wherever they are,” he said.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide denied that Democrats are holding up disaster relief because of a beef over Sandy, which wreaked billions of dollars in damage in Northeastern coastal communities.

The aide said that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Coronavirus bill includes more than billion in SNAP funding MORE (R-Ala.) has taken a staunch stand against appropriating more disaster relief for Puerto Rico because President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE railed against sending more federal aid to the territory during a lunch meeting with Republicans two weeks ago.

Schumer on Monday blamed Trump for turning Republicans against the disaster relief package by turning aid for Puerto Rico into a political football.

“President Trump went to a Tuesday lunch, banged his fist on the table — figuratively, I suppose — and said, 'I don’t think any aid should go to Puerto Rico,'” Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday.

“Did our Republican friends, especially those from states with disasters and who needed the aid, say, ‘No, no, we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to let you divide us’? No they went along with it hurting their states,” he said.

Updated at 3:42 p.m.