With the backdrop of a recent tornado outbreak that caused sever damage in Mississippi and Arkansas, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is criticizing his primary challenger, state senator Chris McDaniel, over disaster aid.
Pointing to a special session of the state legislature to address the tornado damage, a press release from Cochran’s campaign asked “Will Chris McDaniel finally do the right thing?”
The legislature is set to vote on a $20 million aid package to address tornadoes that shredded every building in a two-block radius in Mississippi’s norther city of Tupelo, killing at least 12 Mississippians.
McDaniel has said he is supporting Gov. Phil Bryant, a key Cochran ally who is shepherding the aid measure through the legislature, “1000 percent.” McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said McDaniel will vote for the bill and is a coauthor of it as well.
Meanwhile, in an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s radio show this morning, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour touted Cochran’s record during Hurricane Katrina when he helped pass a federal disaster aid bill.
“When Mississippi was in the worst hour of need in the last hundred and something years, after Katrina…Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) was the giant who saved our state,” Barbour said.
The press release from Cochran also criticizes McDaniel for remarks he made in February to Politico about the Katrina aid bill.
Politico reported that McDaniel declined to say whether he would have supported the Hurricane Katrina aid bill if he had been in Congress and that a spokesman said he would have voted for the bill the next day.
According to audio of the interview posted by Politico, McDaniel’s answer came after a series of questions about whether he would support a hypothetical disaster bill even if it included substantial wasteful spending. He also prefaced his answer by saying that in the case of Hurricane Katrina, “everyone would agree [disaster relief] would be a function of the central government under the circumstances.”
Politico reporter Alex Burns pressed McDaniel on how he would have voted on the Katrina aid bill:
Burns: You find yourself in a situation like Senator Cochran or Senator Lott did after the storm, do you vote for that bill even though it is bloated and full of pork?”
McDaniel: That’s a great question. I would have to see the details of it. I really would. Because, if it’s filled with pork–let’s just say for example that the storm relief that’s supposed to be destined for the Mississippi gulf coast is, let’s just say for example it ends up in Chicago. I would have a serious problem with that. And I think anyone who had sensibilities would have a problem with that. Let’s take care of the people who have been affected by the storm. If you look at those bills closely, there are special projects in them for all across the country.
Burns: So you could see yourself voting against a storm relief bill that…
McDaniel: I would have to review it first and foremost. That’s not an easy vote to cast, you understand that.
Burns: In retrospect, looking back at the bill that did pass, like what about that one?
McDaniel: I would probably have to support it, but I don’t know enough about it–that’s just it. It’s difficult to answer that question without looking at the project as a whole.
McDaniel later responded to pro-Cochran advertisements from the Senator’s campaign and from a Super PAC supporting him, saying in a television interview that “my initial statements were taken completely out of context and that he would “absolutely” support Hurricane Katrina relief.