After Sandy, will Romney support FEMA?

The Republican candidate's comments last year about the Federal Emergency Management Agency are coming back to haunt him.

By The Fiscal Times Oct 30, 2012 4:11PM
Image: Taxes (Peter Gridley/Photographer)By Josh Boak The Fiscal Times

Mitt Romney’s comments in the early stages of the presidential campaign about the Federal Emergency Management Agency came back to haunt him Monday as Hurricane Sandy made landfall with a vicious power.

At a GOP primary debate in June of 2011, the former Massachusetts governor endorsed shifting the responsibilities of FEMA to state governments and private companies.

"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction," Romney said in response to a question about the agency. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

The Romney campaign has since explained away the comments in statements to media outlets as an argument for states to take the lead on disaster relief. But the former Massachusetts governor went a step further during the debate and argued that expenditures by FEMA -- which not only provides aid but helps rebuild local economies after a natural disaster -- contributes to the national debt.

"Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question: What should we keep?" Romney said. "We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in."

FEMA acquired a terrible reputation during the Hurricane Katrina fiasco in 2005, when 1,833 people died after the storm tore apart and flooded much of New Orleans and the coast along the Gulf of Mexico.

Within four days of the hurricane, President George W. Bush signed a $10.5 billion relief package, but the slow and disorganized response -- often broadcast live on television -- made FEMA the symbol of a dawdling and wasteful government bureaucracy. "FEMA has been here three days yet there is no command and control,” said Terry Ebbert, who was the director of homeland security for New Orleans during the hurricane. "We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

The political appointee running the agency, Michael Brown, quickly became the fall guy and the agency began to turn around in its response to the emergencies that have followed.
The FEMA Disaster Relief Fund spent almost $13 billion last year, leading to concerns that it could run dry. There were 99 major disaster declarations in 2011, compared to 81 in 2010 and 34 so far this year. As of August, a FEMA official told The Christian Science Monitor that the fund contained $1.5 billion.

However, the conservative Heritage Foundation concluded that the increase in major disaster declarations under Obama and President George W. Bush has little to do with Mother Nature. FEMA has become a "political pork-barrel spending agency," Matt Mayer, a visiting fellow at Heritage wrote last January.

House Republicans also took a firm stand last year against more funding for FEMA, if it required additional debt by the government. After a tornado struck Joplin, Mo., an earthquake shook the mid-Atlantic, and Hurricane Irene inflicted $19 billion worth of damage on the east coast, the agency was running dangerously low on money.

"Those monies are not unlimited. And what we’ve always said is we’d offset that which has already been funded," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told Fox News on Aug. 29. "Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster, it finds the money it needs to, to take care of a sick loved one or what have you and then goes without trying to buy new car or put an addition onto the house."

Lawmakers reached a compromise in Sept. 2011 that provided less money for FEMA than advocated by Democrats without the spending cuts being pushed by Republicans.
The haggling drew criticism from prominent Republicans including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after his state was struck by Hurricane Irene.

"You’re going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing, where you’re fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks. And you expect the citizens of my state to wait?" Christie said at the time. "They’re not going to wait. And I’m going to fight to make sure that they don’t."

President Obama called Christie on Monday as flooding from Hurricane Sandy swallowed Atlantic City. This time, Christie complimented FEMA for its excellent performance.
Romney announced, according to the Associated Press, that he may go to New Jersey later this week to tour the wreckage caused by the storm.

Josh Boak is a national correspondent at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' FREE newsletter.

More from The Fiscal Times
Oct 30, 2012 4:40PM
Well.. I am sure Mr Romney will be glad to say whatever answer it is he thinks you want to hear.

Governor Romney wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt (his editorial, not mine).

Mr Romney wanted to let home foreclosures hit bottom (his words, not mine).

He says we can't afford FEMA and we should turn it over to the states. (his words, not mine)........

The Governor is a very dangerous man. Certainly the wrong type of leader for these precarious times.
Oct 30, 2012 5:39PM
That's funny! Romney planned to "knife FEMA funding" until yesterday when FEMA was important to every voter. Flip Flop Mitt one more time.
Oct 30, 2012 6:39PM

Instead of collecting can goods he should have sent the Red Cross a million dollar check.

Didn't he say private sector and the states should handle natures wraths. Well he can be the first private citizen to chip in and help those in need with a million dollar donation to Red Cross.  

Romney is so fake it's pathetic.

Oct 30, 2012 5:33PM
Anyone who still thinks this guy is not an idiot is one themselves. We may never recover from this loser if we are unlucky enough to let him ever get in office.
Oct 30, 2012 7:05PM
If we have money to fund wars we have no business being involved in, we have money to fund FEMA.
Oct 30, 2012 5:40PM

The sad I mean truly sad part about all of this is that M. Romney will flip-flop on this issue too. It just depends on the audience in front of him... Time to keep moving forward and onward... No more backstepping and backslidding...

Go figure, then go vote...

Oct 30, 2012 5:53PM
Sure Romney will support FEMA, if he thinks that's what people want to hear now.  If you think he has a stance, just wait.  He'll change it if he thinks it will get him votes.
Oct 30, 2012 6:13PM
I guess it is easy for Mitt to say he would get rid of FEMA...  He has houses all over the country and the money to go anywhere in the world and stay as long as he likes.  The rest of us don't have that option.  Our homes are our largest investment.  We have spent years of life and work paying for our homes, doing renovation to them, and growing memories in them.  For us, losing our home or not being able to live in it, would hurt us in so many ways.  For someone like Mitt, it is just an inconvenience...
Oct 30, 2012 5:39PM

Romney will say, "let NYC go bankrupt." His rich butt-buddies need the tax cuts more than we need another big city full of dem voters, in his warped estimation, as instructed by karl rove and the kock brothers. Hit the showers mittwitt, you've bled this country for all you're gonna get with your holdup of the GM bailout when you and your buddy Paul the vulture Singer bought out Delco, then hijacked the US for 15 billion to stop you from liquidating the company. You are scum, mittwitt, bring back the tens of millions you profitted on this deal and have hidden in the tax haven jersey isle near france. For the full story read the Nation magazine or Greg Palast's "billionaires and ballot bandits." and find out what kind of crook the gop has on their ticket this time. O'bomber is no jewel, but mittwitt is pure scum.  

Oct 30, 2012 5:58PM
What ever you want me to say,i'll say it. Myth Robme the rightys puppet
Oct 30, 2012 6:06PM

Sure he will ...................... NOW.  lol


He will do just like he has done on every subject. 

 Act like he didn't say what he said a couple years ago. I have never seen a person or supporters that actually think people don't remember what he has said in the past on different subjects.  Rommey will change views on a moments notice if it will fit the moment he in right now.  lol

Oct 30, 2012 6:21PM
Thank goodness for cameras or we would never know how the real Mitt Romney fills. Mitt better do a lot of praying because he sure has done a lot of lying.
Oct 30, 2012 6:32PM
Flip Flopper Extraordinaire Romnesia and his side kick Lyan Ryan want to get rid of FEMA, but wait, that's not what they meant, but wait that is what they meant, but wait-let's just blame President Obama
Oct 30, 2012 6:23PM
Go right ahead and put Romney in office,  this is just a mere sample of what you are going to get once this guy and his rich goons get into office.  The voters are so dumb that they won't began to figure out what hit them until they themselves get into a situation like the poor souls out East are going through. ...........
Oct 30, 2012 7:14PM
Now Romney will say he never said that, Romney cannot be trusted on any matter.He was horrible as governor of Massachusetts.He took money from fish and game licenses, and shut down a trout hachery. When confronted, he said don't fish just reproduce themselves. Why do they have to be stocked? He does not care what others think. He is a parrot, pure and simple.
Oct 30, 2012 6:30PM
Romney is nothing but an EMPTY SUIT, much worse than a empty chair~ F'n traitorous Reps
Oct 30, 2012 7:21PM
Romney makes it sounds like he Has to go to New Jersey to tour wreckage from the storm.
He  sounds like he's going  not out of concern, but it will make him look good in the public's
eyes. At least Obama seems like someone who truly concerns himself with others and wanting
to help, if and when catastrophes happen or when problems arise. Romney, I believe is only
after the White House
because it's probably the only thing he either hasn't done or that man has a REALLY, REALLY
big ego.

Oct 30, 2012 6:20PM

In keeping with the way Romney has been going I am sure he doesn't give a hoot about the destruction of Sandy.  He'll have to go to his three ring binders to see if she qualified for government help.

Oct 30, 2012 7:59PM
Take your trip to New Jersey, Mr. Romney, but as of right now, you're just a citizen without any specific or significant role in what's going on, and I believe Gov. Christie, your keynote speaker if you remember, said about that when asked what he thought about you making the trip to his state. You've got one reason and one reason only for going there and everyone knows what that is. It  seems a little crass, even for you, to do an actual campaign right now on the heels of this horrible disaster, so you think you might slip in the side door and act like you give a @#$* about what the 47%-ers are doing to put their lives back together. You're a sickening example of anything we need in a leader.
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