As Harvey rages, Texas senators defend votes against Sandy funding

(ABC News) — As the federal government considers how best to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey, Rep. Pete King, whose home state of New York was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, reminded his Lone Star State colleagues that some of them voted against a $51 billion aid package that year.

At the time, many congressional Republicans insisted on spending cuts equal to the amount allocated to Sandy. Among the 36 senators voting against the final relief package were both Texas senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

Cornyn’s press office noted that before his “no” vote, he supported an amendment that would have provided $24 billion in aid, minus what his team called “unrelated spending, which included money for things like repairing fisheries in the Pacific.”

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However, his staff did not say whether he would seek spending cuts corresponding to Harvey relief funding if Congress votes on the relief after legislators return next week.

In a 2013 statement after the Sandy bill passed, Cruz said the package contained what he called “billions in unrelated spending, including projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes and more funding for Head Start.”

He reiterated that position Monday, saying during a cable news appearance from a Houston recovery center that two-thirds of the Sandy bill “had nothing to do with Sandy.”

While the 2013 Sandy bill did contain funding for all the things Cruz and Cornyn mentioned, each agency and program pointed to problems created by the storm that warranted the funding.

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For example, the Health and Human Services administration for children and families noted that more than 100 Head Start and Early Head Start centers, which provide school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families, experienced physical damage from Sandy. The agency said the effects from the storm ranged from minor cleanup to destruction of facilities, which prompted Head Start recipient programs to request “funds to address urgent safety and mental health issues.”

The fisheries funding cited by Cornyn’s office included $5 million “for necessary expenses related to fishery disasters during calendar year 2012 that were declared by the secretary of commerce as a direct result of impacts from Hurricane Sandy,” according to the NOAA.

In a statement released Monday, Cruz did not address Congress’ likely role in funding Harvey recovery efforts, nor did his press office answer ABC News’ questions about whether he would seek cuts to offset any funding allocated.

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“I’m thankful for the assurances from President Trump and Vice President Pence that full federal assistance stands at the ready once we begin the recovery and rebuilding process,” Cruz said in the statement.

He was not yet in office when the Senate voted on the pared-down amendment that Cornyn supported. His Cruz’s predecessor Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for it.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy commented on the issue, saying, “I don’t like the fact that a lot of Republicans these days play politics on disaster aid. They love it when it comes to their state, but then they vote against it every single time when it goes to a state up our way. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do everything possible to get disaster aid to the people of Houston as soon as humanly possible.”

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