The Romney campaign insisted on Monday that the Republican presidential nominee believes that FEMA, the federal emergency management agency, should be dismantled in favor of a state-led response to natural disasters, even as Hurricane Sandy made its historic landfall on the eastern seaboard.
Romney first suggested that the federal government should take an unspecified but minimal role to individual states in emergency situations, after the Missouri town of Joplin was destroyed by tornadoes in 2011.
"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 a Republican primary debate later. "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?"
CNN moderator John King asked if that included disaster relief.
"We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids," Romney said. "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."
On Monday, Team Romney said in a statement to msnbc that the candidate "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."
As Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast, Romney once again emphasized the role of the private sector in dealing with natural disasters. At a campaign event in Davenport Iowa, he urged supporters to donate to the American Red Cross. "If you have a little extra you can send off... join us in doing that and make sure we do our very best to help those that are being impacted by the storm. We love our fellow Americans. We wish them well!"
President Obama said during a White House press briefing Monday that he is more worried about the impact the storm has on families and first responders, than he is about politics. In response to Hurricane Sandy, the president has declared national emergencies in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. That gives a green light to the federal government to dole out aide to state and local authorities.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have suspended campaign activities.
(Photo: Rex Features via AP Images)