Nearly four months ago, Oklahoma Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe both voted against H.R.152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that eventually sent $50.5 billion in relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. And in the flurry of last night's devastation in Moore, Oklahoma. it was impossible not to forget that fact, knowing the federal government would soon rally to the cause.
Part of that reason was because of the social media aspect to the storm—like the Boston Bombings and like Hurricane Sandy —information on Monday's storm was quickly dispensed through mediums like Twitter and Facebook. But with that came tweets like this, from Current TV's David Shuster (retweeted 118 times):
Praying for OK victims, hoping federal aid/help won't be delayed like #Sandy when 32 Senators, including OK's Coburn + Inhofe, opposed it.— David Shuster (@DavidShuster) May 21, 2013
This one was retweeted 252 more times:
That awkward moment when Sen. Inhofe votes against government help for Sandy victims and then Oklahoma gets hit by a tornado.— Top Conservative Cat (@TeaPartyCat) May 21, 2013
And a quick search for "Inhofe" on Twitter turns a stream into a river of people talking about Inhofe's Sandy vote:
What Shuster and others are stating is fact. Coburn and Inhofe were two of the 36 Senators who voted against giving victims of Hurricane Sandy what turned out to be $60 billion. Inhofe and Coburn, as HuffPo's Christina Wilkie pointed out, backed a measure to slash disaster relief to Sandy victims by some $27 billion. In December, Coburn's office released a statement defending the vote by saying that the bill contained "wasteful spending." But that bill wasn't their only shot fired at disaster spending. Wilkie adds:
In 2011, both senators opposed legislation that would have granted necessary funding for FEMA when the agency was set to run out of money. Sending the funds to FEMA would have been "unconscionable," Coburn said at the time.
The point here is that these Senators, by their votes, did not show compassion to victims of disaster and have a long history of voting that way. So now, with disaster on their own state's doorstep, are these Senators going to ask for help and money the same way New Jersey's and New York's legislators did?
Coburn, for his part, is at least being consistent. His office has already "confirmed that the senator will seek to ensure that any additional funding for tornado disaster relief in Oklahoma be offset by cuts to federal spending elsewhere in the budget," setting up a potential scenario where he would be forced to vote against money being sent to his own state. Inhofe has insisted that this is a “totally different” situation, because the Oklahoma funding bill (which hasn't been written yet) won't contain pork projects that send money elsewhere.
But another pertinent question to ask, is if it's appropriate to bring their voting records up so quickly. As Politico's Glenn Thrush (who also brought up the issue) quickly found out, some thought it was too soon to delve into Inhofe's and Coburn's voting records:
I'm a douche low-life scumbag jackhole ghoul for noting Coburn already wants offsets to fed aid and Inhofe is climate change denier.— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) May 21, 2013
He also had this Twitter fight (which ended in prayer) with a follower:
The whole debate is not unlike the conversation that erupted about gun control in the hours following the Newtown shooting. Some stressed that addressing the debate while the murders of the Sandy Hook children was still raw was necessary. Others said it was "too soon." If you remember, it didn't take long for actual politicians to parlay the Boston bombings into a debate about immigration. It's not impossible to feel for the victims and also be critical of Oklahoma's (and other states') lawmakers. How much help or money victims will receive will probably be decided by bills tapping into federal aid, like those created in the wake of Sandy.
What we know is that the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, are in desperate need of help. Lives have been wrecked. Lives have been lost. Oklahomans are going to need the sympathy and compassion from other humans in what's going to be a long and painful healing process. That's undeniable. How much or how little you may want to focus on the past actions of Inhofe and Coburn is completely your own decision, but it's impossible to ignore.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.