A Republican congressman from Mississippi who voted against the first round of Hurricane Sandy aid is now voting for the second round after having toured storm-ravaged parts of the Jersey Shore and Staten Island.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), who represents Mississippi's Gulf Coast, will now be voting for the $51 billion in federal aid for New Jersey and New York residents, The Staten Island Advance reports. Palazzo, who had requested federal funds for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, toured the areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy following his vote last week in opposition to expanding the federal flood insurance program by $9.7 billion to pay for those affected by Sandy.
The Staten Island Advance reports:
Palazzo made an unannounced trip to ravaged areas on the Island and in the Garden State on Tuesday. He said that much of what he saw reminded him of the devastation wrought by Katrina.
"Mississippians have been through much of what the Sandy victims are experiencing," said Palazzo, who pleaded for federal disaster aid in the wake of Katrina.
Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) led Palazzo on his tour of the Jersey Shore, while the second-term Mississippi Republican toured Staten Island on his own. The Advance reported that Palazzo stopped by Rep. Michael Grimm's (R-N.Y.) district office on Staten Island after his tour, but that Grimm was not in and Palazzo chatted with an aide. Grimm has been a vocal advocate for the federal relief money, including taking the House floor on Jan. 1 to protest House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) decision to postpone an original vote on the aid package.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation to the Gulf Coast in 2005, Palazzo sought more than $38 million for the Biloxi Public Housing Authority as part of the recovery, Salon reports. Palazzo was the authority's chief financial officer at the time.
Palazzo is one of 67 House Republicans to have voted against the federal flood insurance expansion; many of those said that the funds need to be offset by cuts to other areas of the federal budget. Think Progress reported that 37 of the dissenting members had previously backed federal disaster aid for their home states. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), the House Republican Conference vice chairwoman, told HuffPost in a statement that she voted against the flood insurance money due to concerns about the long-term debt of the flood program and a need to protect flood insurance funding for Kansas residents.
The Advance reports that Palazzo's switch leaves the second relief bill four votes shy of passage in the House. It is too early to tell whether the symbolism of a Gulf Coast Republican signing on in support will have an influence on other Republicans.
Belmar, N.J. Mayor Matt Doherty (D), whose Jersey Shore community had $130 million in damage, told HuffPost last week that the federal funds would lessen the burden on property taxpayers. Doherty said his town is currently in the process of borrowing funds to pay for repairs, which could hurt local taxpayers in the long term.