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Will Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn Change Their Tune About Federal Disaster Relief?
Oklahoma Sens. James Inhofe and Tom Coburn have long records of opposing disaster relief for other parts of the country, as well as blocking increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It remains to be seen if the Republican senators will change their minds in the wake of a massive tornado that killed at least 51 people, including 20 children, outside of Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon.
In 2012, Inhofe and Coburn supported a plan to slash federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy from $60.4 billion to $23.8 billion. Inhofe called the original amount a “slush fund.”
"We don't have time right now to get all the way through and analyze the actual losses that were attributable to Sandy," Inhofe said.
When FEMA was running out of money in 2011, both senators opposed legislation that would save the agency, calling it “unconscionable.”
Oklahoma ranks third in the country, behind Texas and California, in terms of declaration for fire and federal disaster relief. Last month, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration following severe snowstorms that affected 17 Oklahoma counties at the end of February.
A spokesman for Coburn, John Hart, said the senator would make sure that any funding received for the tornado relief is offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
"That's always been his position [to offset disaster aid]," Hart said. "He supported offsets to the bill funding the [Oklahoma City] bombing recovery effort."
He noted that Coburn, "makes no apologies for voting against disaster aid bills that are often poorly conceived and used to finance priorities that have little to do with disasters."
A two-mile wide tornado plowed through Newcastle, Moore and South Oklahoma City yesterday. With winds of 200 mph it leveled schools and entire neighborhoods. There are no estimates for the monetary cost of the damage yet. In 1999, after a series of deadly tornadoes, the state asked for and received $67.8 million in federal disaster relief.
Sen. Inhofe is reknowned for his stance against global warming, which he believes is a “hoax” propagated by Al Gore, the United Nations, the Hollywood elite, MoveOn.org, Michael Moore, George Soros, “and a few others.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., chastised the GOP Monday after news of the Oklahoma tornado broke. He said climate change denial affects the entire nation.
“We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover,” Whitehouse told Senate Republicans. “And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together.
“You drag America with you to your fate."