Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky dashed off a letter to President Joe Biden today pleading for expeditious federal relief aid to victims of a deadly 200-mile tornado that struck his state Friday.
That was of course the right thing to do. But Paul is a strange one to have done it.
Throughout his two terms in the U.S. Senate, Paul has prided himself as a Tea Party fiscal conservative willing to say no to the most milquetoast causes if federal spending is involved. Opposing federal disaster relief is one of his pastimes.
In 2017, Paul was one of just 17 senators to oppose an emergency $15.3 billion federal relief bill for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It had wreaked havoc similar to Friday’s tornado, but not in Kentucky.
In 2013, Paul was one of 31 Republican senators who voted against a $50.5 billion relief aid package for Hurricane Sandy -- “after previously receiving disaster aid for their home states,” as reported by ThinkProgress.org.
In 2011, Paul’s first year in the Senate, he was among 38 Republicans voting against a major FEMA funding package despite the fact -- not lost upon publicintegrity.org -- that his own state of Kentucky had been the nation’s largest recipient of FEMA funding ($293 million), mostly because of a 2009 ice storm.
A decade later, Paul wrote to Biden like the two were old liberal spendthrift friends.
“Last night and early this morning devastating storms swept across multiple states, including Kentucky. A single tornado from that system may have been on the ground for over 200 miles, and a large swath of the Commonwealth has been severely hit.
“As the sun comes up this morning we will begin to understand the true scope of the devastation, but we already know of loss of life and severe property damage.
“The governor of the Commonwealth has requested federal assistance this morning, and certainly further requests will be coming as the situation is assessed. I fully support those requests and ask that you move expeditiously to approve the appropriate resources for our state.”
Paul’s stinginess with federal aid to people outside of Kentucky has hardly been limited to aid responding to physical disasters.
In the very first coronavirus Senate aid package -- a mere $8 billion passed on March 5, 2020 -- Paul stood out as the lone Senator to vote no.
His complaint: Congress does not cut other spending to offset the new proposed spending which he insists must follow if federal aid is given to any state other than Kentucky.
“This isn't the first time we've had emergency money,” Paul complained after the first COVID-19 spending passed. “This is probably the tenth time we've done emergency money in the past two or three years. So everything is an emergency."