Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) went on MSNBC to discuss the damage from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath hammering his home state of Texas.
What he got was a pretty pointed question from critics who want to seize on his request for disaster relief from the Trump administration as a supposed sign of hypocrisy, considering he initially fought Hurricane Sandy relief before the 2012 election.
“A final question, senator, I know you’re busy and I want to let you get back to doing everything you can out there,” MSNBC host Katy Tur said. “But a lot of people are pointing out that you voted against aid for Sandy after that catastrophic storm up in the Northeast, that package back in 2012. They’re pointing at you and they’re pointing at you and saying, ‘You’re asking for money now when you weren’t willing to help the people in the Northeast.’ What do you have to say to them?” she asked.
“Well, look, there’s time for political sniping later,” Ted Cruz said before Tur cut him off. “I think our focus needs to be on this crisis and this disaster…”
“It’s not really political sniping, senator,” Tur said, objecting. “These are people who needed money and who needed funding after this storm. I covered many of these people, many of them, just like in Houston, lost absolutely everything they owned.”
“Well, Katie, Katie, of course, that’s right,” Cruz responded. “And the accurate thing to say is that I, and a number of others, enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy. Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue.”
“The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork. Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy. And what I said then, and still believe now, is that it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster and people are hurting to pay for their own political wish list. Disaster relief needs to be focused on the victims of disaster relief. And I supported that for Sandy, disaster relief there, and I would support that anywhere there’s a major disaster without getting distracted by political unnecessary pork spending.”
Indeed, the Sandy package was evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office to contain extraneous spending.
“Two thirds of this spending is not remotely ‘emergency’; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021,” Cruz said in a 2013 statement.
The $60.4 billion package signed by then-President Barack Obama was indeed chocked full of pork. As the New York Post reported at the time:
The pork-barrel feast includes more than $8 million to buy cars and equipment for the Homeland Security and Justice departments. It also includes a whopping $150 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to dole out to fisheries in Alaska and $2 million for the Smithsonian Institution to repair museum roofs in DC.
An eye-popping $13 billion would go to “mitigation” projects to prepare for future storms.
Other big-ticket items in the bill include $207 million for the VA Manhattan Medical Center; $41 million to fix up eight military bases along the storm’s path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; $4 million for repairs at Kennedy Space Center in Florida; $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and $1.1 million to repair national cemeteries.
Critics called the relief package the “Sandy Scam.” A Hurricane Harvey relief bill is projected to dwarf the Superstorm Sandy aid package because of the historic scale of the catastrophic flooding in the aftermath.