This is going to be the big issue that Arkansas voters are going to have consider going into the voting booth come November. After tornados hit Arkansas and Cotton's record of voting against federal disaster aid, Arkansas voters can't afford to elect an extremist like Cotton to the U.S. Senate. If you want to get involved or donate to Pryor's re-election bid, you can do so here:Today, after touring tornado damage in Mayflower, Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey spoke with reporters at the Arkansas State Capitol to highlight the crucial role of federal disaster aid in helping communities rebuild after devastating storms.
Stressing his personal experience as the former mayor of Newark, NJ when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Booker spoke about the bipartisan spirit of helping our neighbors after disaster strikes and criticized Rep. Tom Cotton, Pryor’s 2014 opponent, for repeatedly voting against disaster aid in the wake of that storm.
At the press conference, Booker said the following:
“There’s a tradition in our nation that Democrat or Republican, when it comes down to it, we stand together as Americans when disaster strikes. That’s a tradition that I love about our nation… we take care of our own. But I do have to say, I’m frustrated and worried that Mark Pryor’s opponent in this race stands against that tradition.
“These are families who, by no fault of their own, face outrageous natural disasters and devastation that I know all too personally, which I’ve seen and witnessed in my own state -- and we have Tom Cotton voting against honoring that American tradition when crisis hits.
“We elect people for that reason. We want people to go to Washington so a if crisis hits, if we need you, you’ll stand up for your community, you’ll stand up for Arkansas, you’ll stand up for America. And so I’m here not only to make sure you all know that I appreciated when Arkansas had New Jersey’s back, I want Arkansans to know we’ll have your back as well.
“Your delegation has usually been united in supporting this idea that Americans stand together. And since Tom Cotton is standing against that tradition, I’m standing against Tom Cotton.
“What’s surprising to me is that Cotton voted five times against disaster aid. He actually voted against FEMA disaster relief funding, not only in supplemental emergency funding, not only affecting the aid that New Jersey got, but frankly, affecting the resources the resources that Arkansas got for natural disasters.
“So when I see politicians who forget where we came from, people who themselves benefited from federal support -- like Tom Cotton did to pay for his Harvard degree -- and then suddenly want to close that door, pull up that draw bridge, cut off that avenue. That’s something that irks me as an Americas. And so, I’m proud to stand here with my colleague now. I’m proud to stand here with Mark Pryor, because I know he doesn’t stand in a partisan way in Washington.
“Senator Pryor and I don’t agree on everything, but he brought me down here because he knew there’s one thing we can find common ground on: when disaster strikes, Democrat or Republican, we as a nation have to come together and take care of our own. I know that’s a bipartisan issue because your delegation, your Republican delegation in the Congress, have all supported that idea except for one person - and that’s Tom Cotton.”
Pryor highlighted his consistent support for disaster relief funding, and he gave an update on the progress being made to recover after the April tornado:
Nearly $2.3 million in Individual Assistance has been distributed to tornado survivors
More than half the storm debris has been collected
More than $2.5 million in low-interest disaster assistance loans has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) teams have visited 1,800 homes
In his opening remarks, Pryor said:
“One of the things that makes me so proud about representing the state of Arkansas is the spirit of our people I look at those communities that by all measures have been so devastated, and the people responded in such an amazing way; they picked themselves up by their bootstraps.
“Senator Booker is not new to disasters, he was in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy happened, and of course he had to help his people work with FEMA, work with the state, and first responders. He has been through this before. I tried to support the Superstorm Sandy relief, because I knew that one day we would need help and that’s what I’ve done in the U.S. Senate for the victims of this most recent tornado.”BACKGROUND:
COTTON WAS A VOCAL OPPONENT OF DISASTER RELIEF FUNDING
Cotton Argued That Much Of The Funding In The Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Was Not Going To Natural Disaster Relief. When asked about his vote against the Sandy Disaster Relief Bill, Cotton responded: “’A lot of that money was not going to natural disaster relief. A lot of that money was to go to municipalities that were underinsured,’ Cotton said. He pointed out the amount of money requested was excessive. He said $60 billion is 12 times the budget Arkansas has to work within a year.” [The Courier, 2/18/13]
Cotton: “I Don’t Think Arkansas Needs To Bail Out The Northeast.” When asked about his vote against the Sandy Disaster Relief Bill, Cotton responded: “‘I don’t think Arkansas needs to bail out the Northeast,’ Cotton asserted. He told the audience many of the proposed relief programs were larded up by New York politicians. They were using this opportunity as a grab bag for politicians’ wish lists and for funding repairs to infrastructure that had nothing to do with weather damage.” [The Courier, 2/18/13]
...BUT IF COTTON HAD HIS WAY, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO FUNDS TO HELP ARKANSANS RECOVER FROM NATURAL DISASTERS
Cotton Opposed The Final Sandy Relief Bill, Which Authorized Approximately $50 Billion In Relief. The Pine Bluff Commercial reported in January 2013: “The House extended $50 billion in assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy following debate last week over the amount of aid and whether it should be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. Lawmakers voted 241-180 for a bill that began as $17 billion for the immediate needs of East Coast communities hit by the October storm, then was expanded with $33.7 billion for long term flood control and other projects. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted for the final bill. Reps. Tom Cotton , R-Dardenelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted against it.” [Pine Bluff Commercial, 1/18/13; HR 152, Vote #23, 1/15/13]
Without Sandy Supplemental Bill, FEMA Disaster Relief Fund Would Have Run Out Of Funds In 2013. At the start of FY 2013, FEMA had $7.8 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund. In FY 2013, as of July 31, 2013, the Disaster Relief Fund had obligated $9 billion. Without supplemental funding, the Disaster Relief Fund would have no funds. [Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Report, FEMA, 8/5/13]
Sandy Supplemental Bill Increased FEMA Disaster Relief Funds To Cover Natural Disasters For FY2013.The Sandy Supplemental disaster aid legislation appropriated $11.4 billion to the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund in addition to the original FY 2013 appropriation. [Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Report, FEMA,8/5/13]
Cotton Voted Against FY14 Omnibus Appropriations. On January 15, 2014, Cotton voted against passage of the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations. He bill would provide about $1.1 trillion in discretionary appropriations in fiscal 2014 for federal departments and agencies covered by the 12 unfinished fiscal 2014 spending bills. [CQ; Vote 21, 1/15/14]
FY14 Omnibus Appropriation Allocated $5.6 Billion To FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. According to FEMA, Congress appropriated $5.6 billion to the disaster relief fund for fiscal year 2014. [Disaster Relief Fund: Monthly Report, FEMA, 2/28/14]
IN OFFICE JUST A YEAR, COTTON VOTED FIVE TIMES AGAINST DISASTER AID THAT ARKANSANS NEEDED, INCLUDING A BILL FUNDING FEMA ONLY
Cotton Was The Only One From His Delegation To Oppose $9.7 Billion FEMA-ONLY Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill. The Pine Bluff Commercial reported: “Rep. Tom Cotton , R-Dardanelle, voted Friday against legislation that would ensure the federal government has the money to pay flood insurance claims resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Cotton was one of 67 House Republicans to oppose the measure allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to borrow $9.7 billion to cover damage claims from the storm that ravaged New York, New Jersey and Connecticut two months ago. Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted in favor of the bill. The Senate swiftly approved it by voice vote – with no objections.” [Pine Bluff Commercial, 1/4/13; Vote 7, 1/4/13]
Cotton Voted Against Smaller $17 Billion To Meet Immediate Needs of Communities Affected By Hurricane Sandy—The Only Member of the Delegation To Do So. In 2013, Cotton voted against the substitute amendment that would provide $17 billion to address immediate needs relating to damage sustained from Superstorm Sandy, including $5.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, $5.4 billion to aid public transportation systems in New York and New Jersey, $3.9 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development community development programs, $1.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $287 million for repairs to national parks, lands and facilities, $236 million for Veterans Affairs medical activities and construction projects, $144 million for Coast Guard acquisition and construction, $100 million for the Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund and $100 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 327-91. [CQ; HR 152, Vote #15, 1/15/13]
Cotton Voted Against Reduced $33.7 Billion Hurricane Sandy Disaster Supplemental For Long-Term Recovery Efforts. In 2013, Cotton voted against an amendment that would add $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and mitigation spending to address damage from Superstorm Sandy. The total includes $12.2 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development community development activities; $6.1 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund; $5.5 billion for transit support; $4 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects; $700 million for social services programs; and $474 million for repairs to national parks, wildlife refuges and facilities. It also includes an additional $2 billion to repair federal-aid highways. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 228-192. [CQ; HR 152, Vote #22, 1/15/13]
Cotton Voted Against $50 Billion Disaster Supplemental Providing Emergency Aid to Communities Hit By Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, Cotton voted for passage of the bill that would provide about $50.5 billion for communities hit by Superstorm Sandy. Nearly all funding would be designated as emergency spending exempt from discretionary caps, except for $5.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund. As amended, the bill would include about $11.5 billion for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, $10.9 billion for transit systems, $16 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development community development programs, $5.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $708 million for repairs to national parks, wildlife refuges and facilities, $234 million for Veterans Affairs medical activities and construction projects, $274 million for Coast Guard projects and $520 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans. The bill passed by a vote of 241-180. [CQ; HR 152, Vote #23, 1/15/13]
Cotton Voted Against The FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill That Funded Disaster Relief. In January 2014, Cotton voted against Rogers, R-Ky., motion to concur in the Senate amendments to the bill with a House amendment that would provide about $1.1 trillion in discretionary appropriations in fiscal 2014 for federal departments and agencies covered by the 12 unfinished fiscal 2014 spending bills. Included in that total is: $20.9 billion for Agriculture, $51.6 billion for Commerce-Justice-Science, $572 billion for Defense, including $85.2 billion for overseas contingency operations associated with the war in Afghanistan and other counterterrorism operations, $34.1 billion for Energy-Water, $21.9 billion for Financial Services, $39.3 billion for Homeland Security, $30.1 billion for Interior-Environment, $156.8 billion for Labor-HHS-Education, $4.3 billion for the Legislative Branch, $73.3 billion for Military Construction-VA, $49 billion for State-Foreign Affairs, and $50.9 billion for Transportation-HUD. [CQ Floor Votes, H.R. 3547, Vote 21, 1/15/14]
COTTON EVEN VOTED TO ELIMINATE FUNDING FOR IMPROVED EXTREME WEATHER WARNINGS AND FORECASTING
Cotton Voted to Eliminate $13 Million for National Weather Service Ground Readiness Project. In 2013, Cotton voted for an amendment that would strike $13 million to accelerate the National Weather Service ground readiness project. The underlying bill would add $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and mitigation spending to address damage from Superstorm Sandy. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 206-214. [CQ; HR 152, Vote #17, 1/15/13]
Ground Readiness Project Helped Improve Weather Warnings And Forecast Accuracy. The Ground Readiness Project “will increase NWS information technology infrastructure capacity to ensure processing of the three-fold data volume increase expected from satellite and radar observations, and advanced weather prediction models coming online from FY 2013-2017, improving weather warnings and forecasts accuracy.” [National Weather Service, FY 13]
Vilonia, Arkansas after the tornado hit.
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