What a Romney administration could do to FEMA


As the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Sandy only eight days before Election Day, voters might be wondering how a President Romney would manage a similar situation. Romney and Paul Ryan have cancelled their campaign events scheduled for Monday night and Tuesday “out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy,” But at a Republican primary debate last June, he seemed to propose shutting down FEMA, the federal disaster management agency that’s spearheading the government’s response to the storm.

During the CNN primary debate, Romney was asked about the role of the federal government. He answered:

“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.”

Moderator John King followed up, asking what Romney would do about disaster relief specifically, and the candidate responded that,

“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.”

These days, as on so many issues, Romney is singing a different tune. His campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote in an email Monday to National Journal:

Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions. 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.

But there’s also the issue of how a Romney budget would treat FEMA, especially given the looming sequester. msnbc policy analyst Ezra Klein points out that if the sequester were to take effect, FEMA would “lose about $878 million, largely from programs that provide direct relief to disaster victims. And even if Congress averts the sequester cuts, it has already put hard new limits on disaster relief into effect, thanks to the debt-ceiling deal.”

President Obama has pledged that the sequester won’t happen.