In the wake of Sandy, Mitt Romney is backpedalling fast from his suggestion during a Republican primary debate that he wants to eliminate FEMA altogether.
Today, after avoiding reporters’ questions on the topic for several days, the candidate pledged his support for the federal agency, declaring in a statement released Wednesday morning:
“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.”
Last year at a Republican primary debate, Romney seemed to propose eliminating FEMA, saying:
“Every time you have on 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 gotta stop doing.”
With the devastating damage of Sandy still growing, Romney’s thoughts on FEMA have been in the public spotlight this week. On Monday, the campaign had sought to strike a middle-ground, saying Romney won’t cut FEMA’s budget but affirming that states should be in charge of emergency management when it comes to natural disasters.
But Paul Ryan has proposed a budget plan that would reduce federal discretionary spending which includes cuts in FEMA’s budget. Starting in 2014, nondefense discretionary funding would be cut by 22 percent. And an August CBPP report finds that about one-third of that money generally goes to state aid.