By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
In 2012, New York City and Lower Manhattan in particular were swallowed up by Super Storm Sandy. The unprecedented rainfall left whole communities literally underwater for days and without electricity or steam heat for a week. The loss to local businesses was catastrophic. Repairs and renovations from the storm lasted for years. In fact, the work on the L subway line, which will cause some major disruptions, is directly related to the damage caused by the flooding of the subway tunnels. The costs soared into the tens of billions for the New York-New Jersey region.
Federal disaster assistance was applied for, which requires Congressional approval. Such financial help is common after devastating tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and other natural disasters. The response from Washington, DC is usually sympathetic, swift, and bi-partisan. That is until Texas Senator Ted Cruz got involved.
Senator Cruz had been recently elected to the Senate by the Tea Party. That political movement was, and is, dedicated to limiting the role of the federal government and reducing domestic spending and taxes. So Cruz figured that here was a place where he could make a defiant stand against more federal expenditures, especially since the primary recipient of that aid would be the hated liberal northeast and New York City in particular. What a fortunate thing for Senator Cruz. Here was a perfect opportunity for him to burnish his fiscal conservative chops and also sock it to those liberal spendthrift politicians in New York at the same time. In part he used that situation to rise to the top of the Tea Party darling list. Say this about Senator Cruz: he is never one to miss a good political opportunity.
His opposition ultimately failed, but it delayed desperately needed federal help for months. In some cases the relief came too late to save some local businesses from going broke. But hey, what does a few casualties matter when there are political points to be made with your base, especially when those casualties are 1,500 miles away?
So, fast forward to August, 2017 and Hurricane Harvey. This time the city was Houston, Texas. That city was pummeled by a storm the likes we have not seen since Noah built his ark. After Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, Harvey is the third “storm of the century” in just 14 years. But climate change is a subject for another column on another day. Houston has suffered a devastating blow. Unfortunately for that city, it is represented by a U.S. senator who says that such events do not merit massive federal intervention, and any such monies if appropriated by Congress must be offset by reductions in federal domestic spending elsewhere. At least that is what Cruz said five years ago when the city drowned in ruin was New York.
So is Cruz going to be true to his beliefs and fiscal conservative ideology with Houston? Do you want to buy a slightly water damaged bridge in Brooklyn? Of course the answer is that Senator Cruz and his other fiscally tight-fisted conservative cronies who voted against aid to New York after Sandy now are demanding that Congress put together an assistance package of tens of billions of dollars for help to Houston and other hard hit areas of Texas and Louisiana. And I hope they succeed and fast.