After major disasters struck the U.S. last year, Mitt Romney suggested closing FEMA, the emergency response agency, so that states could have greater control over disaster relief. “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better,” Romney said during a GOP presidential debate in June 2011.
Those words came back to haunt him, though, as Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast and left at least $20 billion in damage in its wake. At first, the Romney campaign vaguely stood by Romney’s plan to get rid of FEMA and put states in charge of disaster relief. And one GOP strategist defended Romney’s idea to dismantle FEMA. But as Politico notes, the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign now insists that Romney would keep FEMA in place:
“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said 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.”
A campaign official added that Romney would not abolish FEMA.
Basically, this is exactly how the system works now. But federal emergency response could be hampered by the GOP ticket’s budget proposals, which stipulate that the government should only disburse disaster relief funding if Congress agreed to offsetting budget cuts elsewhere. And House Republicans have repeatedly attempted to slash spending on disaster preparedness and response to offset cuts in military spending.
It is still unclear “what actions Congress will need to address the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy” and whether Republicans would support providing greater federal aid to the states most devastated by the storm.
The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether Romney would support extending federal aid to states without additional offsets.