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Florida Republicans face thorny questions on federal disaster aid

After Hurricane Ian, it seems like common sense that Florida Republicans would be eager to support federal disaster aid. That assumption isn’t quite right.


As a far-right congressman in 2013, Florida’s Ron DeSantis balked at federal disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As a New York Times report summarized last week, “Nearly a decade later, as his state confronts the devastation and costly destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian, Mr. DeSantis is appealing to the nation’s better angels — and betting on its short memory.”

It’s an awkward dynamic, to be sure: The Republican governor appears to have adopted an entirely new position on federal relief funds now that it’s his constituents who are struggling — five weeks before his own re-election bid.

But DeSantis isn’t alone in facing thorny questions. The Tallahassee Democrat reported late last week on Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott urging congressional appropriators to support “a robust and timely federal response” to Florida’s post-storm crisis.

The Senate passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday that includes an additional $18.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to Hurricane Ian and future disasters. The vote was 72-25. Scott, however, voted against it, while Rubio was not present for the vote, according to the U.S. Senate roll call.

In one of the final votes before senators left town for their pre-election break, 22 Republicans joined the Democratic majority to pass a stopgap spending measure, which both prevented a government shutdown and provided FEMA with a significant boost.

But Florida’s GOP duo wasn’t among the 22: Scott voted against the bill, even though he knew it would pass and even though other Republican leaders endorsed the package, while Rubio missed the vote.

A day later, the same measure passed the House, though every Republican in the Florida delegation voted against it.

Just yesterday, Scott published a tweet that read in part, “To everyone impacted by this terrible storm, know this: You are not alone. I’m fighting everyday to get the federal funding and support our local and state partners need.”

The Republican senator neglected to mention that he had just voted, days earlier, against a spending package with additional funding for FEMA. (In a statement, Scott’s office told The Washington Post that the lawmaker opposed the measure because he wanted a stopgap measure that funded the government until January, not December.)

Of course, there’s a broad assumption that Florida will need additional federal assistance, and as USA Today noted, Rubio, who opposed relief funding after Hurricane Sandy, is already threatening to vote against the next aid package for his own state.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Sunday that he wants any Hurricane Ian relief bills to be targeted only at disaster funding, adding he would not vote for legislation that goes beyond that. ... He said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sunday that he would vote no on any bill that is not “clean” when host Dana Bash asked Rubio if he would vote against a bill “that smells like pork.”

Rubio made related comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

In the wake of last week’s devastation, it might seem like common sense that Florida Republicans would be eager to support federal disaster aid. That assumption, evidently, isn’t quite right.