On Friday, 67 House Republicans voted against $9 billion in funding to replenish FEMA's flood insurance program in the wake of super storm Sandy. Among those naysayers were five Gulf State Congressmen including Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo, whose 4th District was one of the most extensively damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Of course, back then, no one from the Mississippi delegation was demanding a "relief package that includes spending offsets" from elsewhere in the budget. Led by Senator Trent Lott, Mississippi secured billions in aid from Washington.
On September 5, 2005--six days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast--Senator Lott declared, "I am demanding help for Mississippi." He need not have worried. After all, Congress rushed passage on an initial $10.5 billion aid package, funds blessed by the House in a voice vote. As President Bush explained at the time, "I want to thank the Congress for acting as quickly as you did, but I've got go to warn everybody that's just the beginning."
And that beginning would begin at home. Trent Lott's home in Pascagoula, Mississippi, that is. As President Bush announced on September 2, 2005:
"We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."Continue reading below the fold.
For his part, Lott took matters into his own hands. When his insurer State Farm refused to pay his claim for the destruction of his home, the legendary foe of trial lawyers turned plaintiff. He won a settlement against the company two years later. Nevertheless, he continued his attack on the "venal people" of the insurance industry. "I'm like a woman scorned,'' Lott said. "I'm prepared to continue to kick their fanny until the last day I'm alive on this Earth because they have mistreated too many people."
If Mississippians like Trent Lott ran into problems with the insurance industry after Katrina, the Bush administration and Congress greeted them with open arms and open wallets. As the AP reported on September 6, 2005, "Mississippi politicians in position to direct flow of aid; State figures are well placed on committees, in good standing with Bush." In addition to Lott, the AP explained:
The state's senior senator, Thad Cochran, is the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel charged with determining how much and where the recovery money will be spent...That triumvirate didn't just get the Magnolia State "first dibs in the post-Hurricane Katrina grab for federal disaster funds." As the Washington Post reported in 2010 ("Uneven Katrina recovery efforts often offered the most help to the most affluent"), Mississippi got significant leeway from Washington to spend its share of the whopping $143 billion in disaster funding as it saw fit:
Add Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Mississippi packs more political muscle than the other storm-ravaged states of Louisiana and Alabama.
In Mississippi, where Katrina severely damaged more than 101,000 housing units, many residents face what advocates call a similar inequity. Praised in the aftermath of Katrina for his can-do attitude, Gov. Haley Barbour (R) received a series of waivers from the Bush administration that largely freed Mississippi from the requirement to spend at least half of his state's $5.5 billion in federal block grant money on low- and moderate-income residents. Barbour successfully argued that the waivers were necessary to give the state flexibility to deal effectively with the widespread devastation.As for Trent Lott, the former Senator has settled in quite nicely as a lobbyist. And as Pascagoula station WLOX reported in October 2011, he still speaks out on national issues:
That allowed the state to divert close to $1 billion to help devastated utilities rebuild, to subsidize residents' insurance premiums and to help fund the port and other economic development projects. Meanwhile, advocates say that more than 5,000 low-income Mississippi families have yet to settle in permanent housing since the storm.
As for what the retired senator is doing these days, he spends a lot of time traveling between Jackson, where he now lives, and Washington D.C running his consulting business...Lott said he is not sure if he'll ever move back to the Coast, a place he spent the majority of his life.Fast forward to 2013 and tens of thousands of residents of New York and New Jersey may never have that choice. Not, that is, until Congress votes for the kind of recovery package that helped rebuild devastated Gulf Coast communities like the ones represented by Republican Steve Palazzo. Maybe Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo should propose a relief bill Congressional Republicans can get behind.
How about, the Trent Lott Super Storm Sandy Relief Act?