Val Demings Scolds Marco Rubio for Balking at Disaster Relief for His Own State


On Monday, Democratic Senate hopeful Val Demings, who is seeking to oust Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, laid into the senator’s position on providing disaster relief to the Sunshine State while it recovers from a devastating hurricane. “Floridians deserve better than a Senator who says he’d vote against Hurricane Ian relief,” she tweeted, suggesting the senator was prioritizing partisan politics over his constituents.

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Her tweet came in direct response to an interview Rubio gave this past weekend, in which the Republican senator attempted to justify his decision to abstain from voting last Thursday on a bill allocating $18.8 billion to FEMA for disaster aid. “We are capable in this country, in the Congress, of voting for disaster relief after key events like this without using it as a vehicle or a mechanism for people to load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm,” Rubio told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday, adding that he opposed relief for Hurricane Sandy on a similar basis: “It had been loaded up with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief.” (Rubio’s remarks fall in line with a long-held GOP talking point—one that was thoroughly debunked in a New York Times investigation, which found that essentially all $50.5 billion in the post-Sandy aid package was spent on disaster relief and mitigation efforts, save for the $195 million in discretionary funds that went to the Department of Health and Human Services.)

Yet Rubio has praised the White House’s handling of the disaster, with President Joe Biden having preemptively approved emergency aid for areas affected by the storm. “FEMA, they’ve all been great,” Rubio told ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Sunday. “As I’ve said, the federal response from day one has been very positive.” And despite balking at Thursday’s disaster relief package, the conservative lawmaker has called for additional federal assistance as the recovery continues. “A robust and timely federal response, including through supplemental programs and funding, will be required to ensure that sufficient resources are provided to rebuild critical infrastructure and public services capacity, and to assist our fellow Floridians in rebuilding their lives,” wrote Rubio and fellow Florida senator Rick Scott in a joint missive to the appropriations committee, which was penned one day after the duo declined to support the stopgap spending bill that ultimately passed.

Rubio was not the only Republican to face backlash over his seeming about-face on disaster relief. Shortly after voting against the measure on Friday, Representative Matt Gaetz also turned heel, asking the federal government—in a widely panned tweet—to “just send us like half of what you sent Ukraine.”

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At the same time, Ron DeSantis’s history of balking at federal disaster aid has also come under more scrutiny. The Florida governor, who opposed federal funding for Sandy victims as a congressman, spent last week urging the nation to rally around regions battered by Ian. “We live in a very politicized time, but, you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you’re just not gonna be able to,” DeSantis told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday after noting that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the Biden administration approving the affected state’s request for “significant support.”





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