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Oklahoma Senators Show Hypocrisy In Tornado Response

Calum Hayes |
May 28, 2013 | 4:57 p.m. PDT


Oklahoma's senators are showing and extraordinary amount of hypocrisy.  Kendall James, Wikimedia Commons)
Oklahoma's senators are showing and extraordinary amount of hypocrisy. Kendall James, Wikimedia Commons)
Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe are in a difficult spot. Just a few short months ago the  Oklahoma senators were two of 36 Republican members of the Upper Chamber to vote against the disaster relief bill set to help the Northeast recover from Hurricane Sandy. Both men backed a proposal that would have cut $27 billion from the bill. Now they’ve come to Congress hat-in-hand looking for the same type of aid they begrudged residents of New York and New Jersey.

As you probably know, a week ago, large parts of Oklahoma were torn apart by a tornado that, at times, reached a full two miles in width. This is not an article about the damage done to families, schools, and homes. Photos better serve the purpose of showing us the destruction left in the tornados wake and why we need to help those in Oklahoma. This is an article about the hypocrisy of those who have asked for our help as the insurance bill on damages has climbed over $1 billion (yes, that’s with a B).

Before you take your hands out of your pockets to start shaking your fists at me, you should know this is not an article to demonize those men for voting against the recovery act. Each man undoubtedly had his reasons for voting against it, notably both being of the opinion that it contained unnecessary spending. If we go farther back, we also see that each man voted against a 2011 bill to give more funding to FEMA as they were set to run out of money. What this story is about is a level of hypocrisy that we could only expect from our elected officials.

Coburn has come out saying he will absolutely expect federal funds in repairing Oklahoma. He also happens to believe that said funding should come from other areas of the government that will subsequently have their funds slashed.

Coburn’s hypocrisy goes beyond simple opposition to aid to hurricane victims in the North East. It also includes a selfish “me first” attitude. He was quoted as saying, “as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”

Without delay?

Coburn, a man who did all in his power to delay funding to victims of Sandy, a man who sees  the glacial pace our government works at, a man who has said any disaster relief funding must come from budget cuts, is willing to guarantee his citizens that they will wait for nothing.

This is the kind of "do first ask, questions later" governing that Coburn’s party loves to demonize Democrats for. How can he promise his people money without delay when that is the opposite of what he has voted for over the years?

When Hurricane Sandy struck,  Coburn told the victims that they weren’t important enough to get federal funding because the bill didn’t perfectly fit how he would have drawn it up. Now that his state is in need, he  is once again telling citizens of this nation that they are less important than him and his own.

Oklahoma’s other Senator, Mr. Inhofe for his part has claimed this disaster relief package will be “totally different” than the one designed for victims of Sandy. This is a pretty dubious statement given that a bill has not yet been written. Once again we have a senator making a promise that goes against everything we know about how our government works, which actually seems pretty par for the course sadly.

When it comes time to vote on this bill, do you honestly believe that Inhofe would vote against billions of dollars of funds if there were also funds going to rebuilding Amtrak railways? Do you honestly believe that if the federal government were to have no funds cut, Coburn would vote against receiving funds to rebuild his state? As of today FEMA has $11.7 billion dollars available to it (no thanks to Coburn and Inhofe mind you). If that funding were to run out tomorrow, do you believe that the soapbox these two men are on would stand quite so tall, or would they be down here in the filth of hypocrisy like the rest of us?

Thankfully, not all of Oklahoma’s elected officials are suffering from a case of pig-headedness (Given how much they love to throw around the term pork-barrel spending, I thought I’d jump on the swine train too). All five of Oklahoma’s congressmen are Republicans and only two of them voted against the Sandy relief bill. Congressman Tom Cole voted for the bill because “’frankly, one of the reasons that we try to be sympathetic to people in other parts of the country’ is that ‘we’re always one tornado away from being Joplin,’ he said, referencing the catastrophic 2011 tornado in Missouri. ‘I didn’t think it was going to be quite this soon.’”

Senators Coburn and Inhofe would do well to think of Mr. Cole next time they are voting on a disaster relief bill. In the meantime, I think I’ll send them a nice bumper sticker (assuming Coburn hasn’t cut USPS funding before tomorrow), because they’d do well to remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.”


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