Romney changes tune on FEMA funding

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has changed his tune on FEMA funding, telling reporters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that he would not eliminate funding for the federal disaster assistance agency. 

In contrast to his immediate and very public reaction to the Benghazi consulate attack on Sept. 11, the former Massachusetts Governor has stayed quiet since Hurricane Sandy clobbered the eastern seaboard of the United States and avoided answering questions about his earlier opposition to funding FEMA.

Read more: Analysis: FEMA & federal disaster assistance funding threatened by sequestration, GOP budget cuts

According to the Washington Post, Romney finally broke his silence on Wednesday night when he issued a short statement expressing his support for FEMA.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first-responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney’s statement was a glaring reversal from his earlier position that FEMA’s funding should be eliminated to help reduce the federal deficit.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget what we should cut, we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep? 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,” Romney told CNN’s John King when asked about whether FEMA’s funding should be extended during the New Hampshire GOP primary debate.

During that debate, Romney also suggested that disaster response should be the exclusive responsibility of states and even implied that the private sector should play a larger role in handling disaster assistance.

“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. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better,” said Romney.

Romney campaign held Hurricane Sandy donation drive in Ohio 

On Tuesday, Romney’s campaign staged a Hurricane Sandy relief event in Dayton, Ohio, where Romney compared the donation drive to his post-football game clean-ups back in high school.

“We had a football game at my high school and the football field afterwards was covered with all sorts of rubbish and paper goods from people who had a big celebration there at the game. There was a group of us that was assigned to clean it up. And I thought, ‘How are we going to clean up all the mess on this football field?’ And there were just a few of us. And the person responsible for organizing the effort said, ‘Just line up along the yard lines. You go between the goal line and the 10-yard line and the next person between 10 and 20, and then just walk through and do your lane. And if everybody cleans their lane, we’ll be able to get the job done,'” said Romney. “And so today we’re cleaning one lane, if you will. We’re able to gather some goods for some people that are in our lane. We’re going to help them.”

Read more: Transcript: Gov. Mitt Romney’s remarks at a storm relief event in Dayton, Ohio

While the campaign’s donation drive highlighted the types of assistance that citizens and private organizations can offer, it also underscored the fact that no amount of canned goods, clothing, and supplies donated can repair massive public infrastructure damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Fixing flooded roads and tunnels, un-passable bridges, damaged ports and subways, and downed electric power lines in multiple states require the resources and leverage of the federal government, which is where FEMA plays a crucial role in helping state and local governments obtain the necessary federal resources to repair and rebuild.

Despite his anti-government ideological rhetorics, even Romney had to acknowledge that private donations can’t solve all the problems on such a massive scale.

“We won’t be able to solve all the problems with our efforts this morning. A lot of people will still be looking for goods even though we’ve gathered these things,” said Romney.


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One Comment on “Romney changes tune on FEMA funding

  1. Pingback: FEMA and the federal government's role in responding to Hurricane Sandy | What The Folly?!

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