Last week, two-term Mississippi congressman Steven Palazzo voted against an initial $9.7 billion Sandy relief package owing to concerns about adding to the debt. That a representative of a region frequently threatened by hurricanes declined to help when a different region was in need was bad enough. Even more striking, though, is that in 2005, as the executive director of the Biloxi Housing Authority, Palazzo begged the federal government for aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “Don’t send more inspectors — we know what’s damaged and how to fix it. Send us money so we can put families back together and do our part to rebuild our community,” he said at the time.
“Oh, but only if you can figure out how to offset the money with spending cuts elsewhere,” he did not add. “Families are great and all, but the deficit must remain our top priority.”
Palazzo was quickly pilloried for his vote, not only around the country but in his own district as well. “Seldom has a single vote in Congress appeared as cold-blooded and hard-headed as one cast by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., last week,” read an editorial by Palazzo’s hometown Sun Herald. A local news station called Palazzo “[u]ngrateful, unbelievable, hypocritical.”
Finally, last night, Palazzo gave in. After personally visiting some storm-ravaged areas of New Jersey and Staten Island yesterday — apparently the blanket news coverage of Sandy’s devastation and the assessments of New York and New Jersey officials were insufficient — he released a statement acknowledging that he is the last person in the country to realize that “Mississippians have been through much of what the Sandy victims are experiencing” and declaring that he is “fully committed to providing the relief they so desperately need.” Starting now.