As major storms gather to lash the East Coast and the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency steps into the national spotlight, some are raising questions about Mitt Romney's position on the sometimes-controversial federal agency.
The Romney campaign confirmed on Monday that the Republican nominee believes states are in the best position to respond to natural disasters, but also said they should receive help from the federal government, including from FEMA.
“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote in an email to National Journal. “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.”
When asked about disaster relief and FEMA's role in a debate in June of 2011, Romney said, “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,” according to a transcript of the debate.
He added: “Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, ‘What we should cut,’ we should ask 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, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in.”
When questioned by moderator John King of CNN about disaster relief specifically, Romney responded, “We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. 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."
The federal government has declared states of emergency up and down the East Coast ahead of Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to make landfall in New Jersey later on Monday.