Tom Cotton's Five Reckless Votes Against Disaster Relief (Vincent Insalaco Commentary)

by Vincent Insalaco  on Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 11:07 am  

Vince Insalaco, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

(Editor’s Note: Last week, Arkansas Business political columnist Robert Coon wrote about this ad by the Democratic Party of Arkansas criticizing Tom Cotton’s votes against disaster relief. Coon said the ad blurred the facts about Cotton’s votes and argued that Cotton is taking a stand against pork and too much spending. The DPA asked to respond, and this is what its chairman had to say.)

When disaster strikes, Arkansans stand with each other. Neighbors help neighbors and ask, "What can I do?"

On April 27, a massive tornado struck Mayflower, Vilonia and other parts of central Arkansas. While tornados are nothing new to Arkansans, the intensity and devastation of this storm shocked our state and devastated communities.

After the storm, the true spirit of Arkansans was on full display. First responders from cities and towns all over Arkansas showed up to help. Churches from across the state immediately began organizing aid and assistance for survivors of the tornado. 

I have visited Mayflower and Vilonia and seen the damage. I’ve spoken with the mayors and I, along with thousands of my fellow Arkansans, have given to charities doing important work in the affected communities.  

This is how Arkansans have always responded to natural disasters here in Arkansas and when they happen to our fellow Americans. We all do what we can to support the communities devastated by these storms, but at the end of the day, we need all hands on deck to help folks recover. That’s why Congressman Tom Cotton’s five votes against disaster relief are so troubling to so many of us.

Voting Against Aid for Arkansans

Cotton voted against four separate relief bills for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He also opposed the bipartisan, compromise budget that was passed earlier this year. Those no votes were not just irresponsible votes against relief for victims of natural disasters in other states. Cotton’s five votes against disaster relief were votes against money that is helping Arkansans recover from the April 27 tornado.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the largest natural disasters in our nation’s history. It caused billions of dollars worth of damage and drained the Federal government’s disaster aid funds. That’s why Congress had to appropriate emergency funds. They did it to ensure people hit by the storm had the support they needed to recover and so that natural disasters in other parts of the country would receive appropriate federal resources.

One of those disasters was the 2012 Christmas ice storm here in Arkansas. When federal disaster declarations were made in January 2013, the money used to help central Arkansas recover from that storm was money from the Hurricane Sandy emergency disaster funding bill that Cotton opposed.

Funding for FEMA and other federal disaster aid programs were also included in the budget that passed earlier this year. Cotton voted against that, too. That money was added to the funds from the Hurricane Sandy bill. The end result being that when Cotton opposed the Hurricane Sandy bill and the omnibus budget, he voted against the two pieces of legislation that are ensuring that survivors of the tornado in central Arkansas get the support they need to recover and rebuild.

Put another way, it’s arithmetic. FEMA budgeted $6.4 billion for disaster aid before Sandy hit but the storm forced FEMA to spend $10.5 billion. Hurricane Sandy left FEMA’s coffers empty. Without passing emergency funds, there would have been no money to clean up the Northeast or any of the disasters that struck after Sandy, like the Christmas 2012 ice storms. And yes, some of those funds are still in FEMA accounts helping clean up after the April 27 tornado. Simple math shows Cotton’s votes would have hurt Arkansans today



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