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Cornyn, Perry Blast Feds Over Wildfires

Sen. John Cornyn vowed to "raise Cain" if the federal government's decision not to give Texas extra financial assistance for battling the wildfires hinged on politics. But the feds say that Texas is already getting help.

Wildfire rages along a mountaintop outside of Alpine early in the morning of April 10, 2011

Texas politicians are continuing to blast the federal government's decision not to give Texas a disaster declaration for the wildfires, which would have boosted the amount of federal money flowing to the state to deal with the crisis.

In a conference call with reporters today, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he had no idea why the state's request got denied.

“Texas is not a place that has received, to my view, equal and fair handed treatment with other places around the country," Cornyn said. "There seems to be a lot of politics in the calculations."

Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement last night that he was "dismayed" by the federal decision.

But Rachel Racusen, a Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) spokeswoman, said in a statement that the federal government has already been providing assistance to the state.

“This administration, through FEMA, has been working closely with the state throughout the duration of these fires, and we are supporting the firefighting efforts,” Racusen said. That assistance, she added, has come in the way of 25 fire management assistance grants, which cover 75 percent of the costs for emergency response work, such as evacuations, equipment, field camps and meals for firefighters. According to FEMA, those grants are the established means for the federal government to help states with fire.

“Based on the information the state provided to FEMA through this process, it was determined that there was not a need for additional support at this time,” Racusen said.

Perry has blasted the Obama administration for quickly providing an emergency declaration for the tornado damages in the South last week, while holding out on Texas. But FEMA says that unlike wildfires, there is no existing grant process to deal with tornado disasters. 

Cornyn said he and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are not giving up. They sent a letter to the administration asking for additional consideration but didn’t get much of a response, he said.

“We’re going to press the case,” Cornyn said. “We are going to find out what the rational is, if there is one, and we are going to raise Cain if it smacks of politics.”

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