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Connecticut Democrats Say Politics Shouldn't Play Role In Harvey Relief

Texas Republicans sought to block a $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package in 2013, but that won’t stop Connecticut Democrats from supporting them in their request for emergency funds to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

“I’m certainly still angry about how these Republicans voted against Sandy aid because they didn’t live here,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “But just because they did the wrong thing doesn’t mean I’m going to do the wrong thing.”

Sen. Ted Cruz has been excoriated by Democrats and Republicans alike for the role he played during the Sandy funding debate and comments he made this week. He told NBC’s Katy Tur that the funding bill was “filled with unrelated pork,” and two-thirds of the funding “had nothing to do with Sandy.” Both claims were debunked by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog.

“There is more than a little irony here in our distinguished friends from Texas advocating disaster relief for their state after so strenuously delaying aid after Sandy,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “But I think the predominant principal is we are all Americans and one country. And we should come to the aid of the Gulf Coast promptly, fully and effectively.”

Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey — which suffered catastrophic damage during Sandy — was less generous, calling Cruz “disgusting” for using “reprehensible lies” to defend his vote against the Sandy relief package.

“He should just stand up now and say, 'You know, what I did was wrong,” Christie said on MSNBC.

The vast majority of the Sandy funding went to New York and New Jersey, with a fraction going to Connecticut. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican whose Long Island district was battered by Sandy, said he wouldn’t abandon Texas the way Cruz and Texas Republicans abandoned the Northeast.

Murphy said the focus shouldn’t be on relitigating the politics related to Sandy relief, but on making sure the people of Texas get assistance promptly. Bogged down amid partisan bickering, it took 66 days for the Sandy bill to pass the House and the Senate.

A better approach, Murphy said, would be the creation of a revolving fund “that disaster areas could draw upon without Congress.” Money would be put in each year and leftover funds would return to the treasury, he said. If additional money were needed, Congress would appropriate it, Murphy said.

Harvey will require a multibillion-dollar cleanup effort, “and they won’t get the money until Congress works through the messy approval process,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal said disaster relief should be a bipartisan issue and that Harvey is a time for Congress to come together, perhaps building on a relief package to craft a larger infrastructure bill that would contain funds to repair and improve roads, bridges and dams beyond Texas and Louisiana.

“I hope the unifying effect of this humanitarian crisis is an inspiration to do something bigger and broader,” Blumenthal said.

Read The Courant's Capitol Watch blog »


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