(CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledged Monday he “simply misspoke” when comparing the devastation left behind Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm which pounded the Gulf Coast, and Superstorm Sandy.
“In my recent comments criticizing House Republicans for threatening to betray Congress’ tradition of providing aid to disaster victims in a timely fashion regardless of region, I simply misspoke,” he said in a statement.
On Friday — the first full day of the new Congress — Reid said on the Senate floor that “it’s too bad that it’s taking so long” to approve an aid package for the East Coast states impacted by the storm.
“When we had that devastating Katrina, we were there within days taking care of Mississippi, Alabama, and especially Louisiana. Within days,” Reid said. “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 has happened to the people of New England.”
Katrina was responsible for 1,833 deaths and Sandy claimed at least 113 lives in the U.S.
The Senate had approved a $60.4 billion relief packagefor Sandy victims a week earlier, but because House Speaker John Boehner did not call for a vote on the measure in the House, the legislative process had to start over in the new Congress, which took office Thursday. Members from the affected states said they had been promised a vote, but it was ultimately scrapped as Congress wrangled over the fiscal cliff.
The measure which passed the new Congress and which Obama signed into law amounted to $9.7 billion in aid, primarily to fund the federal government’s flood insurance program.
Congress will consider a larger $51 billion package later this month, but some members are concerned it contains unnecessary, “pork” spending.
Both storms were expensive, and at the time Katrina was said to be the “costliest hurricane in U.S. history.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency put the bill for Katrina at $180 million.
The federal flood insurance program paid out $16.1 billion in claims.
Repair estimates from the governors of New York and New Jersey, the two states hit hardest by Sandy, are nearly $80 billion, well above some experts’ early estimates of $30 to $50 billion.
Reid pointed to displacement figures as evidence of Sandy’s wrath, referring to the states as part of New England.
“Almost a million people lost their homes,” he said. “That’s homes not people in those homes. So I think it’s just really unfortunate that we don’t have the relief for New Jersey and the rest of New England already. “
The remainder of Reid’s statement on Monday, which he did not describe as an apology, touted his own efforts on storm relief: “I am proud to have been an advocate for disaster victims in the face of Republican foot-dragging, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, from fires in the west to tornadoes in the Midwest. I have worked hard with Senator [Mary] Landrieu [D-Louisiana] 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.”