Elections 2012: Mitt Romney Disaster Relief Position Faces Scrutiny

After hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the Republican nominee is far more supportive of the government agency in charge of coordinating disaster relief.

Asked about devastating tornadoes at the time in Joplin, Missouri and elsewhere, , the former Massachusetts governor hewed to the right saying that he downplayed the federal government’s role in disaster response. Photo: Mitt Romney/Flickr

During last year’s GOP debate, Mitt Romney said he supported the idea of states and private sector groups taking over responsibility for disaster relief.

“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,” he said at the time.

“And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, ‘In the federal budget, what we should cut?’ we should ask the opposite question: ‘What should we keep?’”

He went on, when asked about disaster relief: “We cannot – 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.”

Now, after of the superstorm, Romney’s campaign is reassuring voters that the Republican nominee wouldn’t leave disaster victims in the lurch.

All public attention is paid to the massive destructions caused by the hurricane at a time when Romney and President Barack Obama are locked in a close presidential campaign.

As President Obama is involved in getting federal funds to solve the problem, the Romney campaign does its best to reassure the public it supports a strong program of storm relief.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement supplied by his campaign Wednesday.

“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.”

Wednesday’s statement comes the next day after Romney refused to clarify his position and the statement essentially endorsed the current disaster aid system.

However, the campaign wouldn’t answer whether a President Romney would insist that help for disaster victims be funded by cutting other programs in the federal budget, as many conservative Republicans insist, reports The Huff Post.

Paul Ryan went vocal about his approval of cutting other spending to pay for disasters. He has previously tried to scrap a new system, established in the 2011 debt ceiling-deficit cuts deal, that boosts spending for those who suffered from hurricanes, tornadoes and floods before they occur.

House leaders didn’t support him, siding with Appropriations Committee members of both parties who like the new system.

What Ryan proposed is that in case of destructive nature phenomenon, the first thing to do is to scour the rest of the budget for savings to pay for rebuilding homes, roads and schools and helping small businesses.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done, especially since it can mean delays in getting aid out the door. Disasters like hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy – can prove so costly that it’s difficult to find cuts in other programs big enough to pay for the aid.

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