October 29th, 2012
11:12 AM ET
10 years ago

Romney wants more responsibility for emergency management in states

(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.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney
soundoff (77 Responses)

    Whatever Willard. You'll have a different position tomorrow. FEMA is more functional under President Obama than it ever was under Dubya. We've had some catastrophic events during the last 4 years(Irene, Joplin, Colorado Wildfires) and the federal government has acted promptly and swiftly.

    October 29, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. 2hheels2

    It is time that the world knows Romney wants to gut FEMA, He might have been a governor, that was hated in Massachusetts

    October 29, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. d

    Yes of course he wants to move all to the states...so does anyone see the pattern here...cut federal programs and taxes...but increase the state taxes. romney only moves the tax issue to the states. he does not really lower anything. some red states in the south should pay close attention here.

    October 29, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. truth hurts

    Government CLOSEST to the people is the BEST government. That is why the Founding Fathers RESTRICTED what the federal government would be responsible for. Faceless bureaucrats in DC don't know jack squat what locals need, but people on the scene do know. Also, people need to be prepared on their own and shouldn't be putting themselves in harms way when they have alternatives. The more the feds do to baby sit the more gets demanded of them and that is not good for everybody involved.

    October 29, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. BillSD33

    Romney's way of cutting the federal budget is to push it all to the states. Most states are barely surviving as it is! So does Wyoming need to have as much as Louisiana? How could a state like New Jersey store up enough services for something like Sandy? Would they have to beg other states to loan them services?

    FEMA is national and can respond to any emergency regardless of they type. It mobilizes and coordinates national, state and local resources.

    October 29, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. DaveC

    Bush left the emergency management to the states and look what happened with Katrina. He finally (after a week and a half) had to take federal control and then things got done. Stop playing the republican card and shifting responsibility. The buck stops at your desk. Disaster control is a federal response in conjunction with state authorities, not the other way around. Just another example of going back to failed Bush policies.

    October 29, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. jinx88

    Ok Mr. mittens what if a state is known for disaster's and runs out of money? FEMA needs to stay the way it is and stop flip flopping! Just because your previous Repuke president Bush screwed up Katrina, doesnt mean FEMA is screwed up.

    October 29, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. truth hurts

    FEMA is more functional under President Obama than it ever was under Dubya. We've had some catastrophic events during the last 4 years(Irene, Joplin, Colorado Wildfires) and the federal government has acted promptly and swiftly.
    Conveniently left off the BP oil spill in which they did NOT act promptly, swiftly OR EFFECTIVELY.

    October 29, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. 333maxwell

    "Romney wants more responsibility for emergency management in states"

    One can only wonder who, and for what reason, whomever wrote this headline, even came up with this spin on their own story. Eee gads.

    October 29, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Chipster

    No one should be surprised. The Republican process of shipping unfunded mandates to the states continues. Social Security recipients are hurt the most by this process because state and local (school) taxes increase the most. In most states, seniors on fixed incomes still must at least pay school taxes.

    October 29, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. 333maxwell

    Forget the hurricane.. (prayers and red cross donations though please) .. The Governor is a real disaster.

    October 29, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. n

    Romney position on every issue . . . if it's not broken, break it and then fix it exactly the way it was before he broke it when it already was working just fine.

    October 29, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. John

    Wrong title. It should read "Romney wants emergency response privatized". Lmao. Privatized emergency response? Really? Who's going to pay for that?

    October 29, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    It used to be handled entirely by the states. It is localized damage, and the locals have to deal with it.

    FEMA can provide assistance, but the initial efforts have be handled by the states. Something Louisiana simply failed, on, during Katrina, not to mention the Mayor of New Orleans.

    October 29, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. Truthseeker

    Terrible, terrible idea. If a given state does not have enough resources and doesn't have a federal agency to coordinate efforts with, then whomever lives in that given state is screwed. The practicality of this fend-for-yourselves, "small gov't"approach is extremely limited.

    Let's move FORWARD. Obama/Biden 2012.

    October 29, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. Old Hateful Greedy White men

    Yeah, Privatize emergency aid! that'll help. "So how will you be paying for this act of god today sir? oh, credit cards? we only accept cash. I guess you drown...."

    October 29, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Joi Gibson

    The man does not know what he believes. He is a revolving door. It is stunning to me that anyone at all trusts anything that comes out of his mouth. I am sure something will be clarified later, as usual.


    October 29, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    I don't suppose it really matters what Mitt Romney says anymore. Most Americans are still trying to understand his lies from yesterday. And the day before. And the day before. And so on and so forth.

    I sincerely doubt even Mitt Romney understands what he has said from one day to the next. GOPers ought not to get too carried away with Mr. Mittens promises. Especially considering his left hand has no idea what his right hand is doing on any given moment. I suspect a Romney Administration wouldn't be any different than a Mitt Romney campaign - confusion and lies, but not much else.

    October 29, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. smart3rthanyou

    I love that Romney wants to shift everything to the states...except Work for Welfare. Even though, as Governor, he requested a waiver so his own state could create a program to fit their circumstances. Despite the fact that the Federal mandate requires that the state program put at least as many people to work as the Federal program.

    And why is he against something being shifted to the states in this one instance?

    Well, because Obama is for it.

    October 29, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Sniffit

    More disasterous absolutism and 10th Amendment pandering. Nothing much to see here folks. When the dust settles after this storm, you watch how much money is needed by the states affected and how quickly they come limping to the federal gov't for help....blue and red states alike. Why? BECAUSE IT'S NECESSARY. Emergencies and the tragedies they birth are terrific equalizers. It won't be blue or red governors and state legislatures asknig for federal help...it won't be staunch ideologues on either side....it will be foolish politicians who have to put down their silly partisan toys and finally start acting in the best interests of the citizens whose safety and well being they were charged with protecting, and which they have been ignoring while trying to push their myopic, narrow-minded political agendas. Mittens' suggestion that the states, particularly the states that most support him and which receive the lion's share of federal assisatnce in the first place due to their abysmal economies and poverty levels, have even the remotest chance of managing state-wide natural disasters and other massive emergencies is patently ridiculous, ignores reality and constitutes nothign but glad-handing people who want to hear this kind of ideological panderings and platitudes. Mittens and the rest of them need to GET REAL.

    October 29, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Guest AGAIN

    He's right. If any of you have been a part of a large logistics effort you would know that you cant lead on the front lines from an office a thousand miles away.

    October 29, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. Mitt Romney

    I favor turning over disaster relief programs to Bain Capital. People will pay a lot for water and medicine when they're dying.

    October 29, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. Teach1959

    Liberal media is going to capitalize on this disaster. Let the "spinning" begin!!

    October 29, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. FactCheck

    This lie brought to you by the same Mitt Romney who wanted to defund FEMA during his primary campaign. Etching and sketching we go.

    October 29, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. Sniffit

    :"shouldn't be putting themselves in harms way when they have alternatives"

    Yes...born, raised, educated, employed and living in a certain area that just happens to be in the path of a natural disaster...they all clearly put themselves in "harm's way" and made terrible decisions, and they should have to live with the consequences. You're a complete moron. $10 says you'd be whistling a different tuen past the graveyard if this was hitting more red states....but please, continue being an insensitive reality-denying prick....it amuses me.

    October 29, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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