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In a sign of the potential risks Republicans face by balking at disaster relief, a GOP sophomore appears to have quickly softened his view on Superstorm Sandy recovery spending after becoming a target of critics, including a local newspaper.
Even though his southeast Mississippi district benefitted greatly from federal aid after Hurricane Katrina, Republican Steven M. Palazzo was among the naysayers on Jan. 4, when the House passed, 354-67, a $9.7 billion increase in the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program.
But after visiting communities in New York and New Jersey that were hard hit by the late October storm, Palazzo spoke of his “unwavering commitment in advocating for the next round of assistance to be considered in Congress.”
“Now is the time for the federal government to provide immediate relief to those affected by the storm,” Palazzo said in a statement Tuesday. “I am fully committed to providing the relief they so desperately need.”
Palazzo’s trip was part of an effort by his fellow Republicans from New Jersey and New York to line up the necessary GOP support for two measures the House will consider on Jan. 15. The first (HR 152) would provide $17 billion and is focused on meeting the immediate needs of communities hit by Sandy, such as providing an extra $5.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund. The second measure, already slated as an amendment to the first bill, would provide $33 billion largely for long-term recovery and repairs to be done through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and by sending out grant money to communities.
“I would welcome any of my colleagues to come to New Jersey before the scheduled vote on January 15th, so they can truly understand how vital these funds are to the recovery and the residents of New Jersey,” said Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., who was one of Palazzo’s hosts on Tuesday.
Palazzo’s vote against raising the borrowing authority of the flood program made him a target among national, and often liberal media outlets, such as the Huffington Post and Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” But the outrage expressed by a local newspaper may have been more worrisome for Palazzo, who first won his seat in 2010 by defeating 11-term Democratic lawmaker Gene Taylor.
“Seldom has a single vote in Congress appeared as cold-blooded and hard-headed as one cast by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., last week,” said a Jan. 7 editorial in the Sun Herald of Biloxi, which serves his district.