Rand Paul Opposition to Previous Disaster Relief Resurfaces as He Seeks Aid for Kentucky

Critics slammed Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul for requesting federal aid to help his state recover from devastating tornadoes after he previously voted against relief when other states were struck by natural disasters.

Tornadoes swept across several Midwestern and Southern states Friday night and Saturday morning, leaving a trail of devastation in their paths.

More than 70 people across Kentucky—one of the hardest hit states—were feared to be killed during the storm. Videos and photos of towns like Mayfield show the extent of the catastrophic damage.

In the aftermath of the storm, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear requested federal assistance to help the state recover from the tornadoes. Paul wrote a letter to President Joe Biden echoing the need for federal relief.

"The Governor of the Commonwealth has requested federal assistance this morning, and certainly further requests will be coming as the situation is assessed," the senator wrote, according to a press release from his office. "I fully support those requests and ask that you move expeditiously to approve the appropriate resources for our state."

Many were quick to draw comparisons to his previous votes against relief bills.

In 2013, after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the northeast including New York, he voted against a bill that provided recovery funds to the state.

He said he would have supported the bill if it reappropriated funds from other areas, rather than add on additional spending, reported WFPL, a Louisville-area news radio station.

"I would have given them 9 billion and I would've taken the 9 billion from somewhere else," he said. "I would have taken it from foreign aid and said you know what, we don't have money for Egypt or Pakistan this year because we have to help the Northeast."

Rand Paul Criticized Federal Relief
Critics slammed GOP Senator Rand Paul for backing federal relief for Kentucky, even though he previously voted against it following disasters in other states. Above, tornado damage is seen in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Saturday. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Paul also voted against relief for Puerto Rico after it was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, as well as a bill that provided assistance for Texas after it was struck by Hurricane Harvey.

He explained the vote in an opinion piece for The Hill, pointing to his opposition for raising the national debt and again arguing for making cuts elsewhere to support relief funding.

"They say we are out of money to pay for hurricane relief. So instead of finding that money somewhere else in the budget, they simply want to raise the limit on our credit card," he wrote. "This has to stop. We spend too much. We owe too much. We cannot keep spending money we do not have."

In 2019, he also voted against a bill that appropriated $17.2 billion in disaster relief funding to several federal agencies. The bill ultimately passed, with 85 senators voting in its support, while former President Donald Trump signed it into law.

He faced mounting criticism for his past votes.

"Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell suddenly find our *socialist* government useful," wrote Twitter user @Scentabulous.

"Today, Rand Paul asked Joe Biden for federal help for Kentucky — even though Paul has voted against every federal disaster relief package of the last 10 years," wrote lawyer Tristan Snell.

In a statement to Newsweek Sunday morning, Kelsey Cooper, a spokesperson for Senator Paul, wrote: "Kentuckians across the commonwealth are suffering and grieving today. This tragedy is uniting everyone around the common goal of helping and healing. Politicizing that suffering would be low for even the deepest partisan, yet here the corporate media is trying to do exactly that. Newsweek should be ashamed of themselves."

Update 12/12/2021, 10:21 a.m ET.: This article was updated to include a statement from Senator Paul's office.