WASHINGTON —Sen. David Vitter on Monday called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., an “idiot” for saying last year’s Hurricane Sandy was worse than Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
While calling for Congress to approve a disaster aid package for Sandy victims, Reid on Friday said Katrina was “nothing in comparison” to the devastation caused by Sandy. In a statement on Monday, Reid, D-Nev., said he “simply misspoke.”
But Vitter, R-La., was still critical, and the Republican Party of Louisiana demanded Reid apologize.
“Sadly, Harry Reid has again revealed himself to be an idiot, this time gravely insulting Gulf Coast residents,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “Both Katrina and Sandy were horribly destructive storms that caused real human misery. And by most any measure, Katrina was our worst natural disaster in history.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, also chimed in to call Reid’s comments “repugnant” and to criticize him for comparing “tragedies” and seemingly preferring the Northeast over the Gulf Coast.
Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and caused well more than $100 billion in damage. While Sandy may have destroyed more homes, the superstorm took the lives of about 250 people and caused an estimated $60 billion to $80 billion in damage.
Reid’s comments came in pushing for a roughly $60 billion Sandy aid package that the Senate has already approved that has taken longer in the aftermath of Sandy than it did after Katrina.
The House approved nearly $10 billion of it Friday. Many Republicans and Democrats were upset the House failed to approve the full aid package last week before the new Congress convened.
“When we had that devastating Katrina, we were there within days taking care of you — Mississippi, Alabama and especially Louisiana — within days,” Reid said Friday. “We are now past two months with the people of New York.
“And, the people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt, but nothing in comparison to what’s happened to the people of New England,” Reid said.
On Monday, Reid said: “I have worked hard with Sen. (Mary) Landrieu to ensure that the people of the Gulf Coast have the resources they need to fully recover, and I will continue to advocate on their behalf until the region is fully recovered.”
Landrieu, D-La., came to Reid’s defense after he clarified his statement.
“Sen. Reid has been a strong advocate for the Gulf Coast’s recovery after hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Landrieu said in a statement. “I am confident that he will continue to provide extraordinary leadership and support to the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast moving forward, as well as champion the needs of the people of the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the outrage over Reid’s comments were “irrelevant” and a “sideshow.”
“It really doesn’t matter whether Sandy was bigger than Katrina, or Katrina was bigger than Sandy. They were both catastrophic events for the American people,” he said. “The bigger message is the American people came to the aid of us when we were hurt and when we were in our darkest hour. And we should be in full support of all of our fellow Americans in the Northeast. And Congress should act immediately and they should not piecemeal this thing.”
Daniel Monteverde of The Advocate’s New Orleans bureau contributed to this report.