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Okla. senators voted against Sandy aid

When the U.S. Senate was presented with a $60.4 billion emergency spending aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy backed by Democrats in January, a number of Republicans voted against it.

Two of them - Sens. Tom Coburn and James Inhofe - were from Oklahoma, according to the senate roll call.  In addition, two members of the House from Oklahoma, both Republicans, also voted against it. However, four members of the Oklahoma delegation did vote for Sandy aid.

Coburn, one of the most adamant against Sandy aid, issued a statement yesterday saying he hopes federal aid will come swiftly to Oklahoma.

"We still don't know the scope of devastation and won't for some time," Coburn said in the statement.  "But, as the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.

But Coburn is sticking to his guns, much as he did with Sandy aid. He's asking that federal aid for Oklahoma needs to be offset by budget cuts.  Some Republicans made similar demands with Sandy aid.

"He will ask his colleagues to sacrifice lower priority areas of the budget to help Oklahoma," spokesman John Hart told the Washington Post.

But if Coburn manages to get other Republicans to join him there could be a battle over aid to Oklahoma similar to what occurred during Sandy.  In 2011, Coburn also voted against a bill to restock the disaster fund for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The fund currently has a balance of $11.6 billion, the newspaper reports.

President Barack Obama has already declared a major disaster in Oklahoma as the state recovers from a massive tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, killing at least 24 people and flattening entire neighborhoods.

Obama has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Individuals and business owners affected by the disaster may apply for federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs.

The president promised federal assistance in a phone conversation earlier Monday with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (FAL'-ihn). The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a special team to Oklahoma's emergency operations center to help out and dispatch resources.

By comparison, Sandy was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were the hardest-hit states and suffered high winds, flooding, and storm surges.

Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.