As East Coast residents anxiously monitored the progress of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, political analysts were keeping an eye on how the presidential candidates were handling the storm. While both President Obama and Romney were forced to call of campaign events in Florida due to the Hurricane, pundits were paying particularly close attention to Romney, who has previously advocated for reducing funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and giving states a larger role in disaster relief.
In a 2011 debate, moderated by CNN’s John King, Romney was asked about his stance on FEMA, in light of the organization’s growing budget problems.
“I've been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it's the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse,” said King. “FEMA is about to run out of money... How do you deal with something like that?”
“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,” responded Romney. “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.”
“Including disaster relief, though?” asked King.
“We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” said Romney. “It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”
But Romney’s comments have been interpreted by many reporters and analysts as a sign that he would plan to completely eradicate FEMA, if elected President. On Monday, in response to those allegations, Romney’s campaign sent out a brief release clarifying his positions on FEMA and disaster relief.
“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams, in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”