A Democratic activist is targeting U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen for his vote against a bill that would provide $50.5 billion in emergency relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which decimated parts of the northeastern United States.
Carrie Lucking, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, painted Paulsen’s vote as a move to better position himself to earn the Republican Party endorsement for the 2014 Senate race against Democrat Al Franken.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House 241-180 on Tuesday night, with Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline also voting against the aid package.
“Congressman Paulsen joined the extremists in the Republican Party and played politics with Americans’ lives,” Lucking said. “We expect our public leaders to step up and do the right thing in times of crisis. Unfortunately, Rep. Paulsen was more concerned with his own political ambitions.”
Paulsen’s spokesman dismissed the claim.
"Rep. Paulsen believes that we must help those affected by Hurricane Sandy as quickly as possible, and voted for a $9.7 billion increase to pay federal flood insurance claims and $19 billion in emergency disaster assistance for those who are suffering from the storm’s destruction," said Paulsen spokesman Philip Minardi.
"Unfortunately, the final House-passed package included tens of billions of dollars in additional spending unrelated to Hurricane Sandy, including money for the Secret Service and a $1.5 billion slush fund to the Federal Highway Administration that could fund Guam, Samoa and Marianas Islands which are located nowhere near Sandy’s path. In this time of crisis for so many Americans, we must ensure that hardworking taxpayers know that every federal dollar spent is for those who truly need it."
The third-term Republican representative has not formally announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, but party insiders consider him leading candidate. In interviews, he has not ruled out challenging Franken.
Minnesota’s Democratic U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz supported the measure. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to pass the aid bill early next week and send it to President Barack Obama for approval.
Rep. Roz Peterson, R-Lakeville, said at a Monday news conference that a constituent had contacted her after receiving a voter registration form from MNsure, the state-run health insurance exchange, even though the person in question is already registered to vote and does not purchase health insurance through MNsure.