U.S. Senator Corey Booker (D-New Jersey), who was in Arkansas at the request of Sen. Mark Pryor, said Pryor’s Republican challenger Cong. Tom Cotton is working against a “bipartisan tradition” of helping Americans in a time of need.
“We talk about the word ‘indivisible,'” said Booker. “Indivisible is about this idea that we stand together as a nation, especially when we are facing common threats.”
Pryor and Booker touted Cotton’s votes against five disaster relief funding bills during his first term in Congress. One bill dealt with Hurricane Sandy relief — a disaster that Booker, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey — dealt with firsthand. Pryor supported the measure.
“Partisanship drops away in times of crisis,” Booker said. “I wanted to stand down here with Mark Pryor the way he stood with me.”
Cotton defended his votes on the disaster relief noting that several of the bills contained additional pork barrel spending and would raise the national debt.
“Like all Americans, I offer my prayers and sympathy to our fellow citizens when they fall victim to natural disasters, which is why I support annual FEMA funding and the traditional disaster-aid process,” said Cotton in a post press conference statement. “What I will not support are Washington politicians who take advantage of a terrible tragedy by larding up emergency relief packages with pork projects that aid those politicians’ re-election campaigns instead of aiding storm victims.”
Cotton spotlighted several spending additions to one of the disaster relief bills that included $150 million for fisheries in Alaska, $2 million for renovations to the Smithsonian museums, and $4 million for repairs to the Kennedy Space Center.
Cotton also said that the Congressional Budget Office indicated that almost two-thirds of a $60 billion disaster relief spending bill has not even been spent, questioning its “emergency” need.
Pryor also pointed out a $9.7 billion FEMA-only Hurricane Sandy relief bill that he said Cotton voted against. He said Cotton was just “rationalizing what he’s done.”
“He can dress it up and dance around it all he wants to,” Pryor said.
Booker said Cotton’s position was “ridiculous,” adding that every other member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation — all Republicans — supported the disaster relief funding.
Earlier Saturday, Pryor and Booker toured areas where a late-April tornado ripped through central Arkansas killing 16 people in its wake. Pryor provided an update on some of the federal government relief efforts in the region.
He said that $2.3 million in assistance has been distributed to storm victims; about half of the storm debris has been removed; $2.5 million in low interest business loans have been processed; and FEMA has visited with 1,800 homeowners.
Booker was also in Arkansas to help with a Senate fundraiser for Pryor on Saturday night.