Arizona Republicans Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Paul Gosar all voted against emergency relief funding after SuperStorm Sandy ravaged much of the New Jersey and New York area earlier this year. Now, following an Arizona wildfire, the same trio is vocally complaining that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is not doing enough to aid their state.
In light of sequestration and budget tightening, FEMA has limited funding and cannot respond to every single flood, fire, and other issue that hits. Last week, the agency announced that it would not declare Yarnell, Arizona, a federal disaster area. A spokesman explained that while the agency had assisted firefighters during the deadly June blaze, “the damage to uninsured private residences from this event was not beyond the response and recovery capabilities of the state/local governments, and voluntary agencies.”
McCain and Flake, who had partnered to ask for a federal disaster declaration, issued a joint statement Monday, lamenting that it was “a shame that FEMA couldn’t find it within their mission to help rebuild their homes and lives.” A riled McCain added that in light of the 19 firefighter deaths and the 134 destroyed homes, “the damage that was done was very substantial and, I believe, qualified. So, we’re going to do everything we can to urge the president to change his mind. Including, I will be making some phone calls.”
Gosar, who had also requested an emergency designation, released a statement of his own, saying, “The people of Yarnell do not ask much from the federal government,” but that here it was “reasonable to expect FEMA to step in.”
In January, the Senate passed a long-delayed $50.5 billion Sandy relief package, but among the 36 Senators voting against the bill were Flake and McCain. McCain criticized provisions in the bill that might not be spent immediately as “questionable” and argued “we cannot justify this type of spending.”
When the House gave its approval to the supplemental spending package, Gosar was among 180 Representatives voting no. At that time, he explained, “I am more than willing to support the people and businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but that would not take over $50 billion taxpayer dollars.” But Gosar even voted against a barebones $9 billion funding increase for FEMA for Sandy relief — one of just 67 members to do so.
Gosar, a climate change denier, has blamed “extreme environmental groups” for Arizona’s many wildfires.