WASHINGTON - Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) said on Tuesday that federal aid to tornado-ravaged parts of his home state will be "totally different" than a Hurricane Sandy aid bill he voted against late last year.
Speaking on MSNBC, the lawmaker said that in the case of Hurricane Sandy, "everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place." However, he said, "that won't happen in Oklahoma."
President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he has already signed a federal disaster declaration for parts of Oklahoma, where tornadoes have caused dozens of fatalities and flattened entire communities.
Inhofe said the Sandy Relief bill "was supposed to be in New Jersey," but "they were getting things … in the Virgin Islands, fixing roads there, and putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C." Both Inhofe and Coburn voted to slash aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, with Inhofe saying he considered the full proposed aid amount to be a "slush fund."
While Northeastern states like New Jersey and New York suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, the storm affected 24 U.S. states in total during October of 2012. Sandy carved a destructive path from the Caribbean Sea to the Great Lakes, where it produced 25-foot waves in Lake Huron.
Hurricane Sandy is believed to have cost more than $50 billion, making it the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.
While it's too early to estimate what the damage from the Oklahoma tornadoes might cost, in 1999 the state requested and received more than $67 million after a series of tornadoes.
On Monday night, a spokesman for the state's other senator, Republican Tom Coburn, said Coburn would demand that tornado relief funds for Oklahoma be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, a position consistent with what he has said in the past, even when the aid was for his home state.
A spokesman for Inhofe declined to comment for this story, and declined to say whether Inhofe will also push for offsets like Coburn.