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Gulf Coast's Palazzo Sees Sandy Devastation Firsthand; Will Back Relief Bill

By Michael Mullins   |   Wednesday, 09 Jan 2013 12:49 PM

After waves of criticism from his Katrina-struck district for opposing a $60.4 billion bill to aid Hurricane Sandy victims last week, a Mississippi congressman said he has had a change of heart following a Tuesday visit to still-devastated areas of Staten Island.

"I was reminded of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Mississippians have been through much of what the Sandy victims are experiencing," said Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo in a statement following the unannounced visit. "Now is the time for the federal government to provide immediate relief to those affected by the storm. I am fully committed to providing the relief they so desperately need."

Palazzo, who had pleaded for similar federal funding for his constituents after Katrina, was castigated and branded a "hypocrite" in news outlets for his lack of compassion when it came to helping New Yorkers and others along the East Coast who need federal aid following Sandy.

Palazzo was one of 67 Republicans who voted no on the bill which was already approved by the Senate, arguing that it would add to the deficit. A scaled back $9.7 billion aid package was passed by Congress on Friday. Palazzo voted in support of that aid package.

A $51 billion aid package for Sandy victims will be sent back to Congress for another vote later this month. Despite Palazzo's about-face, the bill remains in jeopardy with a significant number of Republicans still planning to vote against it.

In an editorial on Monday, the Biloxi Sun Herald, Palazzo's hometown newspaper, quoted him as saying after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, "Send us money . . . So we can put our families back together and do our part to rebuild our community."

"Seldom has a single vote in Congress appeared as cold-blooded and hard-headed as one cast by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., last week," said the Herald editorial. "No member of Congress should have been more supportive of this measure than Palazzo. As the congressional representative of Hurricane Katrina's 'ground zero,' Palazzo should have had nothing but sympathy and empathy for those in need of this legislation . . . That Palazzo would rather make a political or philosophical point than help put 'families back together' and rebuild communities, as he once put it, is both shameful and offensive."

Similar rebukes appeared in other Mississippi publications and the New York Daily News since last week's vote.

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