Ted Cruz drew the ire of many New York and New Jersey residents two years ago, when voted against the 2013 $51 billion package to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Now, the senator and 2016 presidential candidate has been drawing criticism for requesting federal relief for the flooding that has damaged 46 counties in Texas this year.
“There are a series of federal statutory thresholds that have to be satisfied. Initially, it appears those thresholds are likely to be satisfied by the magnitude of the damage we’re seeing,” Cruz said in Wimberley, Texas, after touring the the damaged areas
You can watch a video of the press conference here:
Since Cruz is asking for federal funds to address the flood after standing as a staunch opponent of Sandy relief, many outlets have been quick to categorize this plea as a flip-flop. Though these accusations have some degree of fairness (especially considering the senator’s libertarian views and standing within the Tea Party), it is important to remember the victims of natural disasters before turning them into a political point. When Cruz voted against the Sandy relief, he voiced concerns that two-thirds of the package would become “wasteful spending” on “pork projects” that were using victims in order to obtain government funding for less important projects:
“Emergency relief for the families who are suffering from this natural disaster should not be used as a Christmas tree for billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start. Two thirds of this spending is not remotely ’emergency’; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021. This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have.”
It’s true that “emergency funding” has not always seen the best use in the past. In 2005, approximately $12 billion was was set for FEMA use in wake of Hurricane Katrina, which then saw widespread criticism due to numerous allegations of mismanagement and improper uses of funds.
However, regarding Sandy, PolitiFact reported a Congressional Quartely analysis that stated, “A big portion of the $17 billion in “immediate” assistance, more than $5 billion, went to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which may fund relief from future disasters.”
The report went on to question some of the figures the senator brought up in 2013, stating that “On Jan. 28, it passed H.R. 152, a separate $50.5 billion package. Of that $50.5 billion, $17 billion went toward immediate Sandy aid, while $33.5 billion was for “near- and long-term assistance and mitigation.”
Of course, it is possible to argue that Cruz was not voting against relief of the type that he is now requesting, but rather, that he was trying to make a point about superfluous spending by the government. If one takes such a view, this request would provide an opportunity to the senator to demonstrate an ability to work with the government, negotiate legislation and conditions with those outside his conservative base, and demonstrate conviction and proper use of resources.
No matter the perspective, however, it is inevitable that Cruz will have to answer questions from this moment during his campaign, both from within the Tea Party for requesting government intervention, and from critics who will ask him to justify the difference in standards from these two disasters.
[Image via Screengrab]
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