In the wake of three major hurricanes－Harvey, Irma, and Maria－America’s disaster relief management (or mismanagement) mechanisms are being closely scrutinized. How does Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen’s own voting record on disaster relief and funding measure up?
In 2009, Paulsen voted in support of H.R. 1746, the Predisaster Hazard Mitigation Act of 2010. The bill reauthorized FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program. It passed the House 339-56 with broad bipartisan support.
Paulsen also voted in favor of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2012. That bill made appropriations for disaster relief to the Department of Defense and offered supplemental appropriations for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
And a few months prior to this year’s recent spate of hurricanes, Paulsen voted in favor of the FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017. The bill was designed to make it easier for FEMA to award grants and provide greater access to grant applicants, and passed with unanimous support.
So Paulsen, it seems, can be generous with disaster relief legislation, at least in the abstract. But when it came to actually funding disaster relief efforts during the Obama era, he was an absolute miser. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, for instance, he voted against supplemental appropriations that would have improved and streamlined disaster assistance for its victims. Paulsen also opposed an amendment to the bill that increased relief funding to Sandy victims by over $33 billion.
But in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, he voted with the majority of his colleagues in supporting nearly $8 billion in disaster relief. Has Paulsen turned over a new leaf?
Not quite. The big difference is that when Hurricane Sandy struck, Barack Obama was president. Now that a Republican president is in the White House, Paulsen and his Republican colleagues are doing all they can to ensure they and their party look effective－especially after the failure to make good on their signature promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
As Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) pointed out last month during the debate over additional disaster relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, “Congress, until [Hurricane Sandy], had routinely provided tax relief to communities in the wake of the worst storms. Victims of Hurricane Sandy did not receive the same treatment. … This whole debate smacks of a certain hypocrisy.”
FEMA’s budget is already stretched thin, but additional funding is still needed to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, Florida, and other affected areas. We must continue to pressure Paulsen to authorize the necessary disaster relief.
Featured image via Fortune.