As we watch Hurricane Matthew chew up Florida’s Atlantic coastline, it’s hard not to think of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in October 2012. The videos showing the ocean pushing into Jacksonville, Florida, neighborhoods resemble nothing in recent memory so much as those of the Northeast during Sandy. The value of the comparison has not been lost on emergency management personnel in Nassau County, north of Jacksonville, who measured the storm’s severity in Sandy terms—and reminded residents that Sandy’s storm surge had killed those who didn’t heed evacuation orders.
Matthew has killed more than 800 people in Haiti. Here, whatever else happens, it seems certain that the storm will have caused substantial damage to coastal Florida. The region will almost certainly ask for federal aid.
Again, the comparison with Sandy is instructive. When Congress finally got around to passing the Sandy aid package, 2½ months after the storm, 180 representatives voted against it.
Among them? Republican Bill Posey, who represents Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which stretches from Vero Beach to Titusville and includes the Kennedy Space Center. And Republican Ron DeSantis, who represents the Florida 6th, which covers the state’s Atlantic coastline just north, including Daytona Beach and St. Augustine. DeSantis was also one of 67 representatives to vote no on the smaller, earlier Sandy relief package. (Republican Ander Crenshaw, who represents the adjacent coastal district around Jacksonville, missed the vote because he was having surgery.)
In a statement released after the earlier vote, DeSantis expressed his sympathy for the storm’s victims but said the $9.7 billion aid package was not “fiscally responsible.” “Congress should not authorize billions in new borrowing without offsetting expenditures in other areas,” he continued. “This 'put it on the credit card mentality' is part of the reason we find ourselves nearly $17 trillion in debt.”
Sandy killed 49 people in New York alone, causing more than $71 billion in damage overall. It remains the second-most costly U.S. storm on record, after Hurricane Katrina. "Florida, good luck with no more hurricanes,” said New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo at the time. "Who are you going to come to when you have these things? We need this, we need it now. Do the right thing, as we have always done for you."
Well, here we are.
It’s not the first time representatives who tried to withhold aid from the Northeast have asked not to be held to the same standard. Half of Louisiana’s house delegation (Louisiana!) voted against the Sandy package, then pleaded for congressional help after the floods this August.
No doubt any storm relief measure will pass, as it should, and with the votes of Northeastern senators and representatives. It’s all right, Florida: America has your back.
*Correction, October 7, 2016: The headline of this post originally stated the votes occurred in 2012. They were in January 2013.