BELMAR, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose own state was beset by a major storm last year and then by squabbling in Congress over disaster aid, said Wednesday that Oklahoma's tornado victims deserve "swift and immediate" help, and federal lawmakers have said they are likely to get it.
Last October, Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Eastern Seaboard and zeroed in on New Jersey and New York, causing an estimated $50 billion in damage. A federal aid package was proposed and brought about criticism in Congress, including from Oklahoma's two senators, who said it contained wasteful spending. They backed a measure to slash disaster relief to Sandy victims by $27 billion and were among 36 senators to vote against the aid package that eventually passed.
Their votes were brought up again this week after the massive tornado hit their state, killing 24 and causing $2 billion in damage, according to an early estimate. But Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe pledged that any federal aid would be narrower in scope than the package passed after Sandy.
"That was supposed to be in New Jersey," he said Tuesday on MSNBC. "They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there. They're putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen in Oklahoma."
Coburn has said for years that he supports emergency aid infusions only if they are offset by cuts to other parts of the budget.
However, top lawmakers and officials in Washington said this week that the federal government has more than $11 billion in its main disaster relief fund and recovery costs are expected to be a relatively small fraction of that amount, so no emergency money or vote on emergency money will be required.
"We have a pretty hefty amount of money in the disaster relief fund," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "We're not faced with an immediate need" for a vote, agreed Rep. David Price, D-N.C., top Democrat on the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
That means that Christie had no need to urge lawmakers to act, because the money will flow to Oklahoma victims without a vote by Congress.
Christie was asked Wednesday about Oklahoma getting federal aid and said that the votes against Sandy relief by Inhofe and fellow Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn should not mean residents of their state are denied help.
"Two wrongs don't make a right," Christie told reporters, dignitaries and schoolchildren gathered at the Jersey Shore for the symbolic reopening of the boardwalk in Belmar, which was destroyed by the superstorm. "I would urge all the members of the congressional delegation in New Jersey to support swift and immediate aid in whatever amount is deemed necessary for the people of Oklahoma. This is not a time for political retribution."
Christie, Inhofe and Coburn are all Republicans.
The superstorm was the deadliest hurricane in the Northeast in 40 years and the second-costliest in U.S. history. The National Hurricane Center estimated Sandy's damage at $50 billion, second to the $108 billion caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
New Jersey is still recovering. Though boardwalks are back for summer, many residents have not been able to return home. Some await insurance claims to be settled so they can rebuild. Others can't afford to repair and will be forced to move.
Also on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
White House official: <blockquote>The Administration, through FEMA, is closely monitoring the storm. The President has been notified by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco and is receiving updates from his team as information comes in from the ground. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has spoken with Governor Mary Fallin to make sure there are no unmet needs and to make clear that at the President’s direction the Administration and FEMA stand ready to provide all available assistance in response to the severe weather. The Administration continues to urge all those in affected or potentially affected areas to follow the direction of state and local officials as this severe weather continues.</blockquote>
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Republican Rep. Tom Cole, who was raised in Moore, Okla., addressed the tornado damage in an interview with CNN: <blockquote> It's my hometown … I can literally recognize the homes and the businesses. It's early to know, never helpful to speculate about this. Fortunately the warning system is very good. The national severe storm laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma -- they do an unbelievable job. People take these things seriously. This is in Moore, Oklahoma, where I lived for 15 years … just looking what I could judge from the photographs and the film, it may be worse than the one in '99, which took out 6,000 houses, killed 37 people. So we're talking about extraordinary damage, and when something like that happens, even with the best warning and people heeding it, and they do take it seriously, there's always the potential if you got a direct hit for something really deadly." </blockquote>
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)
Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R)
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D)
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.)
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Former Vice President Al Gore
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.)