News & Politics

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn Demands Tornado Relief Be Offset by Cuts Elsewhere

Coburn’s callous position was announced as the death toll and devastation in Oklahoma was coming into full view.

Photo Credit: United States Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has consistently balked at emergency funding in the aftermath of disasters--and a powerful tornado that ripped through his home state isn’t changing that. Coburn is making headlines by insisting that any aid to his state be offset by federal spending cuts elsewhere.

CQ Roll Call’s Jennifer Scholtes reports that Coburn said he would “absolutely” demand the offsets. Coburn has also voted for cutting the amount of aid allocated to victims of Hurricane Sandy. A Coburn spokesman told the Huffington Post that the Senator “makes no apologies for voting against disaster aid bills that are often poorly conceived and used to finance priorities that have little to do with disasters.”

Coburn’s callous position was announced as the death toll and devastation in Oklahoma was coming into full view. Yesterday, a tornado tore through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs and flattened a hospital and two schools. The death toll currently stands at 24, with at least 240 people injured. An estimated 60 of the injured were children.

One school “was reduced to a pile of twisted metal and toppled walls,” the New York Times reports.Yahoo News! spoke to Stuart Earnest Jr., who witnessed the destruction of the Plaza Towers Elementary school. “All you could hear were screams,” he said. “The people screaming for help. And the people trying to help were also screaming.”

“Numerous neighborhoods were completely leveled,” Sgt. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department told the Times. “Neighborhoods just wiped clean.” Emergency crews continued to search for survivors.

President Obama has declared some Oklahoma counties to be disaster areas, which allows federal funding to be start to flow to the state.

CNN reports that more storms part of the same weather patterns could hit more states, putting 53 million at risk. “Tornadoes could strike the Plains, but likely not in devastated Moore, Oklahoma, where the threat of severe weather has diminished. In the bull's-eye Tuesday are parts of north-central Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas and Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service,” the news outlet reported.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.