Mitt Romney on Wednesday walked back comments he made during the primary season that federal spending - including on disaster relief - was “immoral” for adding to the nation’s deficit. After watching a natural disaster devastate the East Coast, federal relief dollars don’t look so bad.
Days after Hurricane Sandy first crashed into the U.S. eastern seaboard, the Romney campaign finally answered to the persistent questions from reporters along the campaign trail asking of the candidate’s plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should he be elected president, and namely, his intentions with the agency’s funding.
“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. “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 has previously echoed similar sentiments on bolstering the power of the states, but he has stepped away from his primary season rhetoric on deficit-slashing initiatives to embrace federal spending.
In the wake of the disaster, Romney’s stance on FEMA, made clear during a debate in the primary season, has been scrutinized for how it might conflict with the views of voters he is attempting to court in the final days before the election.
“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,” Romney said at a Republican primary debate. “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?”
When prompted by CNN moderator John King if disaster relief was included in Romney’s plan, the candidate 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.”