Shoe on the other foot?
Some national media outlets are calling three Louisiana members of Congress hypocritical for asking for funds for victims of flooding in the Bayou State because they voted against aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey and other northeastern states in 2013.
The three are U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who was a member of the House at that time, and U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, now House majority leader, and John Fleming, who is running for the U.S. Senate – Republicans all.
Other Louisiana House members voted for it – Republicans Rodney Alexander, who is no longer a member of Congress, and Charles Boustany, who is running for the U.S. Senate, and Democrat Cedric Richmond.
Over in the Senate at that time, Democrat Mary Landrieu, who is no longer there, voted for the $60 billion package as did Republican David Vitter.
The House aid package for the northeastern states was actually divided into two parts. The first base portion of the Sandy aid bill was $17 billion, which Cassidy, Scalise, and Fleming voted for.
But when the remaining $33 billion was added to the package, the three voted no. Only 38 Republicans supported the supplemental appropriation, but the bill passed the House on a 228-192 vote.
House Republicans also introduced an amendment that would have required $17 billion in budget cuts in federal discretionary spending to offset the Sandy aid package. It was defeated on a vote of 162-258.
Landrieu, at the time, called the offset effort a “dangerous precedent.” The $60 billion package in the Senate, which included $10 billion in flood insurance funds, passed with 62 votes with several Republicans opposing it.
Fleming was the only Louisiana House member to vote against the $10 billion in supplemental Sandy flood insurance funds, which was voted on earlier than the other two parts of the aid package.
The Louisiana aid package will obviously be in the billions, but no figure was been set. It will be interesting to see how Republicans vote on this one. Fortunately, New Jersey Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell is calling on his colleagues to support aid for Louisiana.
But he was quoted in a New Jersey newspaper a saying, “I’ll have a Jersey moment with those guys, believe me, but retribution has no place in politics.”
That’s not all. The Congressional delegation and Gov. John Bel Edwards are asking for another favor from the federal government. They want the feds to consider the flood in March and the flood in August as one.
Usually, the feds pay 75% of the cost, but they are asking them to boost its share to 90% for the flooding which took place in Louisiana this year. You can bet that Cassidy, Scalise, and Fleming will not be voting no while the shoe is on the other foot.
Will floods affect the election?
The November 8 primary election is less that three months away, so there is already concern over how the floods will impact important federal, state, and local races.
The situation brings to mind Hurricane Gustav in 2008 when federal elections had to rescheduled, leaving some with the belief it caused skewed results.
It is highly unlikely that things will be back to normal by November 8 for those who lost their homes or businesses. Will they be concerned about voting for president and Congress? It’s a legitimate question.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler is looking ahead and assessing the situation. He noted the good news is not one single voting machine was touched by flood waters. He is looking at the possibility of using mobile voting precincts in November that would allow voters to show up where they usually do rather than having to find a relocated precinct.
Tents from the National Guard would be set up in parking lots equipped with generators and portable toilets. That’s some of the thinking taking place, but Schedler emphasized that he is still assessing things.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.