Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has enough money to deal with the tornadoes that ravaged his home state this week without the need for Congress to appropriate more.
"It's the same old game: Washington creating a crisis when none exists so they can advantage themselves when, in fact, we've got $11.6 billion sitting in the fund," said Coburn on Thursday, in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Tornadoes demolished buildings through a large swath of the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday, killing 24 and injuring more than 350. Damage estimates topped $2 billion.
"We'll clean it up, we'll go on, we'll get by, and we'll rebuild. And what we'll say is, 'If you want to help us, fine. If you don't, we'll take care of it ourselves,'" said Coburn.
Coburn said the calls for more federal emergency money are "just like Sandy," when Congress passed a bill following the monster storm that smashed into New York and New Jersey last year. That bill was attacked by Republicans for being loaded with spending unrelated to the hurricane.
"I was for the first $20 billion on the bill. The last $40 billion isn't going to be spent for five years but yet we didn't have to make a priority choice within Congress," said Coburn. "We just borrowed it against the future and we added things on that didn't go through committee."
Coburn said he has been consistent with his calls that emergency relief money be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, citing the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.
"We offset it and paid for it. We made a priority choice of helping Oklahoma City by cutting spending somewhere else," Coburn said. "It's the lamest excuse in the world when we have at least $200 billion worth of waste, fraud, and duplication to say, "Oh, my gosh, we can't do that; we have to go borrow the money against the very kids you're saying you want to help.'"
Coburn also said the federal government shouldn't force residents in tornado-prone areas to build special bunkers or safe areas in their homes.
"Those aren't decisions that should be made at the federal government level. That's a decision of Oklahoma," said the two-term senator. "We don't need a big federal government telling Oklahoma what we'll put in our homes when we build them or not. But we'll make the judgment, we'll make the decisions, and if we want to add it to our building code, we'll do it."
Coburn said the state and local community were capable of dealing with the crisis without help from the federal government.
"What you've already seen in Oklahoma is a complete voluntary response. Almost $50 million has been raised and given for the cause down there. You've seen tremendous neighbor-to-neighbor response where less than 25 people had to spend the night in a shelter out of everybody that was displaced because neighbors are helping neighbors."
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