Coburn: ‘Legitimate’ Role for FEMA in Response to Oklahoma Tornadoes

“We ought to live within our budget,” said  Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.. “We ought to live within our budget,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Tuesday that “there’s a legitimate role” for the federal government in the response to the tornadoes near Oklahoma City that have devastated the town of Moore, where at least 24 people have died.

Coburn, who opposed the Superstorm Sandy relief package, as well as a 2011 disaster relief package to fund Federal Emergency Management Agency, told Government Executive that “where [FEMA] can add resources that supplement those that are ongoing in Oklahoma, they should.”

“They have some expertise that most states can’t afford to have, and they’re applying that expertise—whether it be search and rescue dogs or mortuary help,” said Coburn. “They have a long line of things—so there’s a legitimate role. What we have to see is what’s the total damage outside the lives that are impacted, how much is covered by insurance and how much help does Oklahoma need.”

Coburn maintained that any additional funding of disaster relief to benefit Oklahoma should be offset with budget cuts elsewhere.

“We ought to live within our budget,” said Coburn.  “And that applies to Oklahoma. Remember, the Oklahoma City Bombing—we offset that. The real question . . . is should the people of Moore—ultimately children—have to pay interest on money that we’ve borrowed when we’re wasting $200 billion a year?”

“There’s plenty of waste in the federal government,” said Coburn. “Something has to give if we’re going to help Oklahoma—but we don’t know what that bill is going to be yet.”

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