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Watch: Ted Cruz shuts down MSNBC host who tries to corner him as a hypocrite over storm relief bill

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) shut down MSNBC host who tried to pin him as hypocrite over 2013 hurricane relief bill. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Despite the fact that rain continues to fall in parts of Texas ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, MSNBC host Katy Tur made sure she grilled Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with political questions during an interview Monday.

Tur pressed Cruz on what she saw as an apparent hypocritical stance toward hurricane relief funding as he spoke live from a Houston relief shelter.

Help needed

Cruz and other Texas congressmen have asked the federal government to increase the amount of aide they are providing to Texas. After all, local and state officials can only do so much in the wake of the worst hurricane the Lone Star State has seen in decades.

But apparently it’s hypocritical of Cruz to ask for more aide because he voted against a Hurricane Sandy relief bill in 2013, which was notoriously loaded with monies that weren’t going directly to the storm’s victims.

The exchange

Tur questioned senator, "A lot of people are pointing out that you voted against aid for Sandy after that catastrophic storm up in the Northeast, that package back in 2012, and they're pointing at you and saying you're asking for money now when you weren't willing to help the people in the Northeast. What do have you say to them?"

Cruz responded to the accusation saying, "You know, look, there's time for political sniping later."

Tur stated that it wasn't political sniping and said Sandy victims equally needed the money that Cruz is seeking for Harvey's victims.

"The accurate thing to say is that I and others enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief," Cruz said. "The problem with that particular bill was that it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork."

"Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy," Cruz explained. "It’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster when people are hurting to pay for their own political wish-list."

Now the facts

Many media outlets portrayed the exchange as Tur cornering Cruz for being a hypocrite. But is that necessarily correct? Not really.

A large share of congressional Republicans argued the same case in January 2013 that Cruz did with Tur to explain why they disapproved of the bill. They voted against it in large part because it wasn't offset with spending cuts, meaning it would add to the deficit, and the relief dollars were massively spread out, the Washington Time reported.

In fact, a Congressional Budget Office report said at the time that just 40 percent of the relief money would be spent by February 2014 while just 80 percent would be spent by September 2017. The remaining 20 percent? It was estimated to be spent by 2022 — nearly a decade after the storm.

A Washington Post fact check gave Cruz three of four Pinocchios for his claim, mostly centering on the fact that Cruz said two-thirds of the Sandy relief bill was unrelated to the storm. However, even the Post slyly admits that much of the Sandy relief bill was not direct relief funding and would be strung out over a long period of time — and even that some of the funding was completely unrelated to Sandy.

With those facts in mind, Cruz's claim is mostly correct. His spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, later clarified to say that Cruz's "two-thirds" comment was directed at the rate of the relief spending and not the individual expenditures.

"Sen. Cruz strongly supports this role of government, but emergency bills should not be used for non-emergency spending and that unfortunately is what made up nearly 70 percent of the $50.5 billion HR 152 bill," Frazier told the Post.

(Relevant portion begins around 5:27):

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