(CNN) – Mitt Romney's comments about the Federal Emergency Management Agency, made at a CNN Republican primary debate in June 2011, are receiving renewed attention Monday as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast.
At the debate, held in Manchester, New Hampshire, Romney answered a question from CNN chief national correspondent John King on whether or not he'd give states a larger role in dealing with emergencies, and by extension reduce funding to FEMA.
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King asked, "FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?"
In response to King's question, Romney said, "Absolutely. 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. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."
The now-GOP nominee continued, "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?"
King interjected, asking "Including disaster relief?"
"We cannot - 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."
Asked Monday whether Romney held the same position he did at the June 2011 debate, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg explained the candidate believes "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," Henneberg said. "This includes help from the federal government and FEMA."
On Sunday, President Barack Obama visited the headquarters of FEMA in Washington, and said the federal government has resources ready to deal with the storm.
"You need to take this seriously and take guidance from state and local officials," Obama said, adding he was "confident that the resources are in place."
"My main message is we have to take this seriously," he said. "The federal government is working effectively with the state and local governments."
Before speaking to reporters, Obama said he met with officials from FEMA and other agencies, as well as spoke by phone with governors and mayors whose states and cities may be impacted by the storm.
In September 2011, funding for FEMA became a sticking point in Congressional negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats and Republicans had been at odds over a GOP demand to cut spending elsewhere to offset increased disaster relief funding, which was required for the aftermath of deadly tornadoes in the Midwest and Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
FEMA eventually ended that standoff when it indicated that it had enough money to get through the final few days of the fiscal year.