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A little more than a week ago, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) was one of only 67 Republicans to vote against a bill to provide $9.7 billion in relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy that easily passed the House of Representatives. In a letter sent Monday to those very GOP members, Palazzo called on them to reverse their votes and help pass a larger Sandy aid measure that will be considered by the House this week.
“I believe we as Americans will work to do what is responsible by reforming our disaster relief system, but we will also always do what is necessary to provide help to those in need,” Palazzo wrote in the letter.
It's the latest stage in a swift evolution for Palazzo, who's gone from ardent opponent to now vocal supporter in just 10 days. A two-term representative of a district that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Palazzo was pilloried for his opposition to the initial Sandy aid bill that passed the House on Jan. 4. That criticism amplified when it was revealed that he publicly lobbied for federal aid as a local government official roughly a month after Katrina battered his hometown of Biloxi, Miss. Palazzo originally stood by his vote, insisting that any bill include spending offsets while suggesting that the debate over Sandy aid should start a "national discussion on disaster relief reform."
But a tour last week through Sandy-affected areas in the Northeast prompted a change of heart in Palazzo, who also delivered a floor speech Monday in support of a reform bill that would expedite the process by which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can distribute disaster aid. That bill unanimously passed the House and will now be taken up by the Senate.