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 SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE’s home state of New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Georgia Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run MORE (R) told reporters on Tuesday that the lead Democratic negotiator, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' 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.
“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 ChamblissEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia MORE (R), and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field 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 ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE (R-Ala.) has taken a staunch stand against appropriating more disaster relief for Puerto Rico because President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe 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.