Oklahoma Disaster Aid: Tom Coburn, James Inhofe Spared Tough Votes By Bills They Opposed

WASHINGTON -- Oklahoma's senators can thank sequestration, and perhaps more importantly, funding for Superstorm Sandy cleanup that they opposed, for sparing them from a difficult vote on disaster aid for tornado-ravaged Oklahomans.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued that an aid bill for the Sooner State would be totally different than the Sandy bill. And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) argued in an interview Wednesday that Oklahomans will get whatever they need from the federal government without new help because the the Federal Emergency Management Agency has "$11.8 billion sitting on the side."

"We're not going to come close to that with this," Coburn said on CBS. "Oklahomans like to care for their own, and we'll take the help that's appropriate."

Both men may be right, but through no doing of their own.

First, of $18.5 billion that Congress approved for disaster relief -- $7 billion through a "continuing resolution" to keep the government funded and $11.5 billion from the Sandy relief package -- only $928 million is subject to sequestration's automatic cuts, so more than $17 billion is unencumbered by the budget difficulties.

Second, the lawmakers decided that almost none of the emergency aid should be subject to "offsets," which are cuts elsewhere in the budget.

That means, that as of the most recent count -- which is slightly lower than Coburn's estimate -- there is about $11.6 billion available for Oklahoma.

Coburn, speaking to CBS, insisted that he stands by the need to offset emergency aid. He won't have to test that position in this particular emergency because his colleagues in the Senate and House stuck to the previous precedent of passing emergency funding with no strings or cuts attached. That does mean, however, that the cash assistance Oklahoma gets will effectively violate Coburn's rule to offset disaster relief.

05/23/2013 12:46 PM EDT

Oklahoma Governor: Missing Have Been Accounted For

05/23/2013 12:43 PM EDT

Oklahoma Governor Posts Update

05/23/2013 6:26 AM EDT

Volunteer Shows Dedication To Helping Tornado Victims, Rescuers

05/23/2013 5:41 AM EDT

Storm Lights Up Skies Above Moore

05/23/2013 4:58 AM EDT

Rough Weather Forecast To Hit Tornado-Ravaged Region

05/23/2013 2:05 AM EDT

Okla. Mom Recalls Being In Labor During Tornado

While the Moore Medical Center crumbled around her on Monday afternoon, Shay-la Taylor was in labor with her second baby boy.

The mom-to-be knew about the severe weather watch as she checked into the hospital to be induced at 9 a.m. that morning, but says she wasn’t really nervous.

“We’re used to tornadoes and sirens,” the 25-year-old mom told HuffPost in a phone interview. “If you freaked out every time you heard a siren, you’d have an anxiety attack every May in Oklahoma.”

Click here to read the rest of her tale.

--Farah L. Miller

05/23/2013 12:47 AM EDT

Sheriff's Department Offers View Inside Plaza Towers Elementary

05/22/2013 11:37 PM EDT

California Cupcakery Holds Fundraising Event For Oklahoma

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Los Angeles plans to donate all of the proceeds from their (ever-popular) Red Velvet cupcake sold on May 22 to support Oklahomans affected by Monday's tornado.

"As a native Oklahoman with my parents and brother still living in Oklahoma City, I am especially heartbroken by this devastating tragedy," Charles Nelson, co-founder of Sprinkles, stated on Facebook.

For more, click here.

--Sasha Bronner

05/22/2013 11:07 PM EDT

PHOTO: Kevin Durant Tours Tornado-Ravaged Moore

moore tornado kevin durant

Basketball player Kevin Durant viewed tornado-damaged homes in Moore, Okla., on Wednesday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star also donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for relief efforts. The Thunder later matched the $1 million donation. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)

05/22/2013 10:56 PM EDT

Mail Service Alternatives Offered In Storm-Damaged Areas

The post office branch in Moore, Okla., was one of the thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed by Monday's twister. To help residents impacted by the disaster, the US Postal Service is setting up mail service alternatives in the area, News9.com reported.

Some of the options being offered include held mail, portable post offices and delivery service through an alternative office nearby. Letter carriers will also attempt to deliver mail wherever possible.

Click here for more.



May 2013 Central U.S. Tornadoes (GRAPHIC IMAGES)