With so much attention this week on Hurricane Sandy and the response to its ravaging, year-old comments by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggesting that disaster relief should fall more to the states and the private sector have received new scrutiny.
Those comments from a GOP primary debate coupled with the budget cuts proposed by GOP running mate Paul Ryan would cut by 40 percent the account that funds FEMA, and have raised questions about how a Romney administration would respond to a disaster.
Romney, who suspended his campaign rallies in favor of donation drives for Sandy on Tuesday, stated his position on FEMA in a statement to ABC News Thursday.
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” he 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.”
But during a GOP primary debate sponsored by CNN in June 2011, Romney was specifically asked about FEMA’s role in the government and whether states should play a larger role in disaster response.
ROMNEY: Absolutely. 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. 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, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot-
CNN’s KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: 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.
Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill got into a legislative argument in the fall of 2011 over whether disaster funding should be off set by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Republicans, pointing to the federal deficit, said yes, and Democrats, by and large, said the money should be allocated on its own.
President Obama has made a record number of disaster declarations during his administration – more than 100. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Hurricane Sandy equaled a major disaster. But the administration has also declared emergencies for small earthquakes and much less destructive storms.
Read more about the 2012 election at ABC News.com/politics.