Our old friend Rep. Steve King of Iowa is defending his vote against relief for Hurricane Katrina, because he claims some of the money was spent on "Gucci bags and massage parlors." During a debate in Mason City, Iowa, last night, King said he doesn't want to sign off on federal spending for disaster recovery from Hurricane Sandy either, unless he sees (and likes) a detailed plan for how the money will be spent.
In 2005, King was one of only 11 Congress members to vote against a $50 billion Hurricane Katrina relief bill, an issue that was expected to come up again given the talk about how to handle the current disaster (and reporters trying to pin down Mitt Romney on his FEMA stance.) King mocked the idea the plan that was submitted for Katrina, because it included appropriations for "mitigating future disaster." He said he would make the same demands on Northeast states before releasing federal dollars to help with Sandy's recovery, and not give "one big shot that just opens up the checkbook, because they spent it on Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of."
His opponent, Christie Vilsack, immediately seized on his answer, calling it "heartless." It was their seventh and final debate of 2012. By way of defense, King's campaign cited this article detailing waste and fraud in the Katrina recovery.
King already some caused trouble earlier in the campaign, when he defended Missouri Congressman Todd Akin's comments on abortion and rape. When asked about possible exceptions for those who get pregnant by statutory rape, he responded by saying, "I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way." As in this case, his stance may be based on a principle (fighting waste), but his choice of words is hardly helpful and definitely offensive to people who legitimately need help right now. It also plays into the worst fears of those who believe in the "47 percent" of Americans that merely want the government to fund their extravagant lifestyles.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.