Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) tore into Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday, calling him "an idiot" for suggesting last week that Superstorm Sandy had wrought more devastation on the northeast than Hurricane Katrina had on the gulf coast in 2005.
"Sadly, Harry Reid has again revealed himself to be an idiot, this time gravely insulting Gulf Coast residents," Vitter tweeted on Monday, linking to report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune concluding that "Sandy devastated some of the nation's most populated areas, but it didn't come close to Katrina."
Vitter also released an official statement on Reid's comments, comparing the death tolls and damage costs of the two storms.
"[B]y most any measure, Katrina was our worst natural disaster in history,” Vitter said, going on to cite National Hurricane Center statistics. "In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused 1,833 deaths and over $108 billion in damage. Hurricane Sandy has caused 131 deaths and $65 billion in damage."
Reid spoke on the Senate floor on Friday, lamenting the time it took to get a Sandy relief package passed through Congress. In his speech he said the pain felt by the people of New Orleans during Katrina was "nothing in comparison" to that felt by the victims of Sandy:
"It is too bad that it has taken so long. When we had that devastation from Katrina , we were there within days taking care of Mississippi, Alabama, and especially Louisiana--within days. We are now past 2 months with the people of New York and New Jersey. The people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt but nothing in comparison to what happened to the people in New York and New Jersey. Almost 1 million people have lost their homes; 1 million people lost their homes. That is homes, that is not people in those homes. So I think it is just unfortunate that we do not have the relief for New York and New Jersey and the rest already. It has to be done. We have to meet the needs of the American people when an act of God occurs."
A Reid spokesman told Nevada reporter Jon Ralston that the senator was talking more about the "economic impact in a more dense metropolitan area ... but, of course, he wasn't in any way underplaying what happened with Katrina in terms of tragic loss of life."
(Video of Reid's address at RalsonReports.com)
UPDATE: 5:15 p.m. -- Reid issued the following statement, saying that he "misspoke" with the comparison:
"In my recent comments criticizing House Republicans for threatening to betray Congress' tradition of providing aid to disaster victims in a timely fashion regardless of region, I simply misspoke. I am proud to have been an advocate for disaster victims in the face of Republican foot-dragging, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, from fires in the west to tornadoes in the Midwest. I have worked hard with Senator Landrieu to ensure that the people of the Gulf Coast have the resources they need to fully recover, and I will continue to advocate on their behalf until the region is fully recovered."