Mark Pryor, Cory Booker Criticize Tom Cotton on Disaster Aid

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Jun. 1, 2014 1:24 pm  

LITTLE ROCK — Stumping in Arkansas on behalf of fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Saturday accused Pryor's Republican rival of going against a bipartisan tradition by opposing disaster aid for the states hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Booker lent a hand to Pryor's bid for a third term in one of the more expensive Senate races in the country, criticizing Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton's votes against legislation aimed at helping victims of the 2012 storm that hit New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in 2012.

"I'm frustrated and worried that Mark Pryor's opponent in this race stands against that tradition, not a Democrat or Republican tradition, but stands against that American tradition that we take care of our own," Booker said in a news conference at the state Capitol. "That we are a nation indivisible, that when a crisis attacks our soil — be it a natural disaster or a terrorist attack — we stand up for each other and are there for each other."

Cotton's votes against Sandy relief last year are among several issues Pryor has been targeting since the freshman lawmaker joined the race last August. Booker made the remarks after touring Mayflower, a central Arkansas community hit by a deadly tornado last month.

Cotton defended his vote against the $50.5 billion Sandy relief measure in 2013, saying the legislation included funding for projects that didn't help storm victims. Cotton said he supports annual Federal Emergency Management Agency funding and the traditional disaster aid process.

Cotton also voted last year against a $9.7 billion measure to help pay flood insurance claims for victims of Sandy, at the time saying he didn't support the additional funding because it wasn't offset by spending cuts.

"What I will not support are Washington politicians who take advantage of a terrible tragedy by larding up emergency relief packages with pork projects that aid those politicians' re-election campaigns instead of aiding storm victims," Cotton said in a statement released by his campaign.

Pryor said Cotton's votes would have threatened the availability of disaster aid for Arkansas and other states.

"Basically what he was doing was he was voting to say that we don't want to have those resources available when we need them," Pryor said.

The April 27 storms that hit Arkansas are blamed for 16 deaths and caused millions of dollars in damage. Pryor said more than $2.3 million in individual assistance has been distributed to storm victims, and another $2.5 million in low-interest business loans have been approved.

Booker also planned to headline a fundraiser in North Little Rock for Pryor Saturday night.

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