As Hurricane Michael smashed into the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) wasted no time calling for aid.
However, Sen. Rubio didn’t show the same level of urgency when the New York metro area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy six years ago.
On Wednesday, Sen. Rubio issued a statement on his senate website calling for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Justice to lend assistance to his constituents:
Specifically, Rubio urged Attorney General Sessions to “work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to prepare to investigate and prosecute illegal activity related to Hurricane Michael and its aftermath.” He requested HHS Secretary Alex Azar to “continue to coordinate with state and local governments to ensure they are prepared and able to quickly respond to Floridians once Michael passes.” Finally, he asked IRS Commissioner Rettig to “pre-approve relief to taxpayers residing in areas that are going to be impacted by the storm.”
It can’t be argued that Sen. Rubio doesn’t care about his constituents getting the help they need in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which has been called the worst storm to ever hit the continental U.S. in 50 years. However, Rubio is selective about his request for aid, as he voted against the Hurricane Sandy relief package that Congress passed in 2012, after the storm caused $70 billion in damage to the Northeast.
On December 29, 2012, Rubio issued a statement to his senate website defending his vote against the Sandy relief bill, saying it was filled with unnecessary “pork” spending, and that he instead voted for a Sandy relief amendment proposed by then-Senator Dan Coats (R-Indiana). The Coats amendment failed, largely due to objections that it didn’t allocate any funding to help prepare for and mitigate damage from future storms.
“From a public policy standpoint, I have always believed one of the most critical roles of any government is to help people impacted by natural disasters,” Rubio stated. “Unfortunately, the Hurricane Sandy supplemental bill goes far beyond emergency relief to impacted victims and communities, which is why I voted no on final passage.”
As the New York Times reported last year in criticizing Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who defended his call for Hurricane Harvey relief despite voting against Sandy relief, the vast bulk of the $60 billion Sandy aid package wasn’t “pork,” but rather funding to help agencies that deal with severe storms be better prepared in the future.
More than $28 billion was allocated to programs for Sandy relief. They included money for the Federal Emergency Management disaster fund ($11.5 billion), repairs for damaged transit systems ($10.9 billion), repairs to damaged Army Corps of Engineers projects and dredging ($5.35 billion), disaster loans to small business ($520 million) and emergency farm, food and conservation assistance ($224 million).
The Sandy package … earmarked more than $200 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve and study weather forecasting, $86 million for Amtrak recovery and resiliency projects in the affected area and $50 million to the Corps of Engineers for storm damage reduction studies, for example.
The damage from Hurricane Michael is not yet known, though it’s expected that Congress will appropriate additional funding for FEMA once there is an approximate estimate of damages.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.