Last week, two-term Representative Steven Palazzo (R-MS) sparked controversy nationwide when he voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, despite representing coastal Mississippi, one of the regions hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina and a top beneficiary of Katrina disaster aid.
But in addition to representing the region today, Palazzo was deeply involved in pressing for federal dollars in the fall of 2005. Then acting in his role as a local government official, Palazzo repeatedly appealed for federal funding to help rebuild his battered coastal Mississippi community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Palazzo’s future congressional district, including his hometown of Biloxi, Miss., was ravaged by the 2005 storm. Roughly a month after Katrina made landfall, Palazzo — then Deputy Director and CFO of the Biloxi Housing Authority — did not mince words when he addressed what was necessary in order to repair the damages.
“We will rebuild and we’ll provide homes for those displaced; but we cannot do that until it is funded,” Palazzo said in a pamphlet published by the Biloxi Housing Authority and still available online. “We’re ready to do the work- but we simply do not have the financial resources on our own to handle a catastrophe like Katrina.”
“Tell our national leaders- don’t send more inspectors- we know what’s damaged and how to fix it,” Palazzo continued. “Send us money so we can put families back together and do our part to rebuild our community.”
The handout includes a breakdown of the “Total Funds Needed Right Away,” ultimately requesting more than $38.5 million in federal largess.
In April of 2006, The Sun-Herald of Biloxi, Miss. credited Palazzo with helping the Housing Authority “win a $7.2 million grant to replace housing for displaced residents.”
Palazzo was one of 67 members - all Republicans - to vote against the $9.7 billion Sandy relief package that overwhelmingly passed the House on Friday. Laura Chambers, a spokeswoman for the congressman, provided TPM with a statement later that day in which she indicated Palazzo would have supported a bill with “offsets,” equivalent spending cuts to cover the cost of Sandy relief aid.
Notably, in the fall of 2005, as Congress struggled to reach a consensus on the scope of Katrina relief and how to pay for it, congressional Republicans demanded offsets much like Palazzo did on Friday.
Palazzo’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on this story.
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.