Left-leaning bloggers used the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to attack Vice President Mike Pence, saying he opposed relief for Hurricane Katrina while he was a congressman.
Many partisans and political groups pointed to a speech Pence gave on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005, implying that Pence would be unwilling to help Houston residents affected by Harvey.
One such example we saw called Pence out for citing the Bible: “Here’s Pence quoting Matthew 7:25 while urging Congress not to fund Katrina relief effort. Can’t get any more phony,” @adamcbest tweeted on Aug. 29. The comment, which has been retweeted thousands of times, featured a video of Pence posted on Twitter by Scott Dworkin, the cofounder of the Democratic Coalition. Dworkin also posted the video on DailyKos.com.
Pence gave a one-minute speech on the House floor on Sept. 8, 2005, shortly after Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast.
“Mr. Speaker, Katrina breaks my heart. When I consider its tragic aftermath, the ancient parable comes to mind: ‘And the rains descended and the flood came and the winds blew and beat against the house and it fell with a great crash.’
“For most American families, when a tree falls on your house, you tend to the wounded, you rebuild, and then you figure out how you are going to pay for it. Later today Congress will continue the work of funding the relief and recovery from Hurricane Katrina, and well we should, by speeding more than $50 billion to FEMA and other agencies.
“But as we tend to the wounded, as we begin to rebuild, let us also do what every other American family would do, in like circumstances, and expects this Congress to do: Let us figure out how we’re going to pay for it.
“Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren.”
While the tweet said Pence urged Congress not to approve Katrina aid, the video that accompanied it — and Pence’s full remarks — show the opposite. Pence did not oppose any aid for Katrina victims. He said in his remarks that Congress should pay for relief efforts. Pence joined the vast majority of lawmakers who voted later that day in favor of a $51.8 billion relief package, which passed 410-11. The bill then passed the Senate 97-0 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
What Pence was saying was Congress should not go into debt to pay for the aid package, and find other solutions to offset costs.
It’s no secret Pence favors reducing government spending. As chairman of the Republican Study Group, a collection of conservative legislators, he proposed cutting or delaying spending on some projects to offset the costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Their plan was even called “Operation Offset.” Among the group’s targets were a prescription-drug benefit for seniors and transportation projects.
But as Pence and other congressional Republicans looked to find cuts to curtail a budget deficit, he did not propose holding up Katrina relief. He continued his cost-cutting rhetoric a couple of weeks later, when he discussed cutting “big-ticket items” from the budget to deal with Katrina spending.
Bloggers cited a short 2005 floor speech in which Pence said Katrina relief should pass, but then Congress should look to cut costs elsewhere. He did not hold the aid bill hostage, even while making cost-cutting a personal priority.
Critics are misrepresenting Pence’s comments, which are plain just from watching the video. We rate the statement Pants on Fire.