There is no better steward of American taxpayer dollars than Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. When Hurricane Sandy struck last year, he fought to eliminate non-emergency items from a supplemental disaster relief bill that included millions for road construction in states not affected by the hurricane. So when a monster tornado struck his home state yesterday the liberal press immediately tried to brand Coburn as a hypocrite for accepting federal funds. The Huffington Post reported:
Coburn spokesman John Hart on Monday evening confirmed that the senator will seek to ensure that any additional funding for tornado disaster relief in Oklahoma be offset by cuts to federal spending elsewhere in the budget. “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”
The rest of the left-wing noise machine quickly pounced. “In Wake of Devastated Oklahoma, Tom Coburn (R-OK) Demands Spending Cuts,” Crooks and Liars blared. “Coburn already demanding offsets for tornado relief,” Daily Kos reported. “For many years, federal disaster relief was effectively automatic,” Stenven Benen wrote at Rachel Maddow’s blog, “Under the new approach they’ll consider emergency resources, but only if Democrats agree to cut a comparable amount from the budget elsewhere.”
This is all false. Coburn does not automatically oppose federal disaster relief spending for true national emergencies like Hurricane Sandy or the tornado that just hit his home state. What he does oppose is the politicization of FEMA by using the Disaster Relief Fund for increasingly smaller, but more plentiful, non-national emergencies. This drains FEMA’s resources and makes it harder for them to respond to real tragedies.
Currently the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund has a balance of $11.6 billion, FEMA Press Secretary Dan Watson tells The Washington Examiner. When a tornado destroyed Joplin, Mo., in 2011 (a city of similar size, population 50,000, to Moore, Okla., population 55,000) FEMA ended up spending just $190 million on emergency services.
In other words, FEMA probably has all the resources it needs to respond to the Oklahoma tornado. Coburn has not called for “spending cuts” or “offsets” for Oklahoma disaster relief spending because there is zero evidence that any new Disaster Relief Fund money is needed.
But liberals, of course, never even bothered to check these facts. They would much rather attack Coburn on purely political grounds while American bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble.