Local lawmaker votes against FEMA funds

Rising water on Capri Lane in Seabrook Texas  (Jeannette Cogswell)    * Send us your photos
October 2, 2008 5:47:50 PM PDT
Hundreds of people were left homeless and entire communities were washed away. So why did a local lawmaker vote down help from FEMA following Hurricane Ike? ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

It's his job to represent the people in DC, but US Representative Ron Paul voted "no" to a disaster recovery aid package that would help his devastated district. Congressman Paul's district is a large area along the Gulf Coast, right where Hurricane Ike made landfall.

Ron Paul is well known for his strong constitutional views. He wants to limit government and rein in spending. It made him pretty popular when he ran for president, but now his principles and his district's disaster may be clashing.

It's slow going in Surfside three weeks after Ike's arrival.

Resident Nancy Coburn admitted, "I guess it would never move fast enough for us."

It's a little better in Galveston, but slow going on the Bolivar Peninsula and in Chambers County,too. More than just cities in the path of this storm, they're all cities in Congressman Ron Paul's district. It's almost as if Ike was aiming right for Paul's congressional turf. Ron Paul was in Galveston the day President Bush visited. But since then? We asked if he's been to Chambers County to see how residents there are faring.

"No, but my staff has been up on that," Rep. Paul responded.

We asked, "What's your sense of how it's going on Galveston? Have you been able to spend much time there?"

Paul admitted, "Other than that trip I made with the President, I haven't been back."

His absence is noted.

Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia said, "There's been a disaster here and especially our Congressman should realize that."

In Washington, Paul's already had a chance to help his constituents, and he voted no, which wasn't much of a surprise.

"I told you they call him Dr. No," Coburn explained.

Last week, Congress passed a $23 billion FEMA disaster recovery plan - money his constituents need. It was attached to a bigger law - one that kept the government running but also funded stuff like Homeland Security grants and prison sex abuse prevention programs. Ron Paul has opposed stuff like that for 30 years. And just two weeks after parts of his district were flattened by the storm, he stuck to his principle.

"I get a lot of credit for that - for standing up for what I promised to do and that I understand the financial problems of the country," Paul explained. "For my part, I usually come out very positive on this."

State Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston said, "I think his actions are irresponsible."

Fellow politicians on the ground aren't all that impressed.

Eiland asked, "If the whole Congress followed his lead, where would we be in the recovery?"

Ron Paul is running unopposed for re-election next month. He says if this isn't what people in the area wanted, he wouldn't be sent back term after term.

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