GOP Fight Looms Over Oklahoma Aid

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By Daniel Newhauser and Emma Dumain (Roll Call)
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Moderate House Republicans such as Rep. Peter T. King are ready for another intraparty fight over whether emergency disaster aid should be offset, after a tornado ravaged parts of Oklahoma on Monday.

The New York Republican said that if central Oklahoma needs supplemental aid, Congress should grant it immediately without talk of offsetting the spending elsewhere.

“I think they should get every penny they need. I’ve been through this. We can do the political games later on, the important thing is to get them the aid as quickly as they need it and not to make a political issue out of it,” King said Tuesday.

King was one of the most vocal proponents of bringing federal aid to New York after Superstorm Sandy battered the coasts of his state and neighboring New Jersey late last year.

Though the White House said Tuesday that there is enough Federal Emergency Management Agency money to deal with the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes, King said that may not turn out to be the case in the long term.

He noted that the Disaster Relief Fund only helps pay for the immediate recovery, while the state could be in need of long-term financial assistance in what could be a protracted cleanup effort.

“I don’t see how they get by without additional money,” he said. “There should be enough for the FEMA money, but that’s only part of it. … You have to get a supplemental appropriation … that gives the local officials leeway.”

King’s comments came after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told CQ Roll Call he would stick by his mantra that disaster aid should be offset, despite the damage in his home state.

Others in the delegation may follow Coburn’s lead. Sheryl Kaufman, a spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., said that supplemental aid is a “moot point” because the FEMA fund has more money than the entire cleanup effort cost when a large tornado hit Oklahoma in 1999. As to the long-term cleanup, she said people have insurance and charities can help fund the efforts, as well.

Other Republicans who have in the past insisted that aid be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget remained mum on Tuesday, as the scope of the destruction, and the federal assistance needed, was not yet known.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Scott Garrett, R-N.J., both said they would wait to see what becomes necessary.

(for more, please visit our partners at Roll Call)

 

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