New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slammed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently for comments he made during an appeal to Congress for disaster relief funds to help Hurricane Harvey victims. Christie’s criticism was a result of Cruz repeating a long-time talking point, that two thirds of Hurricane Sandy relief was for “unrelated pork” spending.
Cruz claimed Sandy relief got “loaded up with 70 percent of” non-emergency spending during an MSNBC appearance Tuesday.
A report on the bill clearly indicates that the spending was directed at Hurricane Sandy relief and even though Cruz opposed the bill, it was not on the grounds that two-thirds did nothing for Sandy, but that 70 percent of the bill was for long term assistance.
The money for Sandy came in two sections: Congress voted in late 2012 without partisan rancor to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to borrow $9.7 billion in emergency funding. Then, on January 29, 2013, a further $50.7 billion was approved for FEMA — but this time without the support of Texas Republicans like Ted Cruz and other GOP members. They said the spending should only have been approved if spending cuts could be found in other areas of government. Those dissenting supported an alternate bill sponsored by South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney that would have authorized a smaller financial package for FEMA combined with a 1.63 percent cut in government discretionary spending.
But that didn’t mean, that “two-thirds” of the first bill, as Cruz is suggesting today, “had nothing to do with Sandy.”
The Congressional Research Service issued a comprehensive report on how the $50.7 billion was spent under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013 and there is nothing in the document to indicate that two-thirds of the funding was pork. Though there are some items that Speaker Ryan described as “non-Sandy expenses” — such as repairs in such diverse locations as Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands — these costs were nonetheless a result of damage caused by Sandy as it made its way along the Eastern seaboard.
Interestingly, Cruz objected to the spending for a different reason in 2013 than he is alleging today. It was not due to two-thirds of the money going to pork but that it wouldn’t be spent immediately. As Cruz noted in 2013, “two-thirds of this spending is not remotely emergency; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30 percent of the authorized funds will be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021.”
Cruz may have had a point in criticizing how quickly the aid was delivered; nonetheless, immediate or long-term, the statement that two-thirds went somewhere other than Sandy relief is false.