From THE TEXAS TRIBUNE:
Many New Yorkers and New Jerseyans serving in Congress have, for nearly five years now, kept a list of names handy to roll out at a moment’s notice. They call it “the Comeuppance Caucus.”
For some, the list is on a physical paper or bookmarked on a computer. For others, it’s merely tattooed into their brains. It consists of which colleagues voted against Hurricane Sandy funding back in 2013, and it’s chock full of Texas Republicans.
In fact, nearly every Texas Republican who was serving in Congress at the time voted against the $50.5 billion aid bill. And now their own constituents are facing the biggest natural disaster in state history.
“There is deep and lingering resentment by members of Congress who needed help in their districts when Sandy just ravaged their constituents,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat who represented Long Island until he retired last January. “[U.S. Sen] Ted Cruz and others led the fight against that aid, and a lot of people said there would be a day of reckoning.”
Back in early 2013, Congress easily passed a massive funding package to support the victims of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that hammered the northern Eastern Seaboard just before the 2012 election.
Yet it galled many members from the region at the time that Republicans representing coastal states like Texas that are also susceptible to hurricanes would not back the bill, citing spending in it viewed by some as pork-barrel spending.
Both Cruz and his fellow senator from Texas, John Cornyn, as well as every Texas Republican in the U.S. House save for John Culberson of Houston, ultimately voted against the Disaster Relief Act of 2013.
U.S. Rep Peter King, a Long Island Republican, took the biggest shot at the delegation on Saturday, tweeting, “Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/NJ aid after Sandy but I’ll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY wont abandon Texas. 1 bad turn doesnt deserve another.”
And then on Monday, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey moderate Republican, added to the dogpile, calling the Texans who voted against Sandy relief “hypocritical based on geography.”
Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined in.
“The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites,” Christie told reporters Monday.
Cruz called the commentary “political sniping” in a Fox News interview Monday.
When asked if Hurricane Harvey had changed his mind about his stance in 2013, Cruz stood by his vote.
“Of course not,” he said. “As I said at the time, hurricane funding is a very important federal responsibility, and I would have eagerly supported funding for that, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to engage in pork-barrel spending, where two-thirds of that bill was unrelated spending that had nothing to do with Sandy.”
“It was simply politicians wasting money,” he added. “That shouldn’t happen.”
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker dug into Cruz’s latest remarks on Monday and ruled that “it is wildly incorrect to claim that the bill was ‘filled with unrelated pork.’ The bill was largely aimed at dealing with Sandy, along with relatively minor items to address other or future disasters.”
Privately, several sources close to Texas Republican members echoed Cruz’s comments about wasteful spending but did not want to speak publicly about the issue.
Congress returns on Tuesday and will have a whole host of new problems to sort out, on top of a slew of budget deadlines barreling toward the two chambers. Is there a chance that the Sandy vote will come back to haunt Texas?
The bipartisan message blowing in from the Northeast: Congress will deliver the funds to Texas. While there is no interest in punishing fellow Americans, these members do want those in Congress from Texas to know just how personally they took those “no” vote when their own constituents were in trouble four and a half years ago.
“New Yorkers made the argument that when a storm strikes, it’s not striking one region, it’s striking the whole country, and I think my colleagues will be faithful to put their [voting] cards in and pushing the button,” said Israel.