These Florida Republicans requested Hurricane Ian funding after opposing disaster relief
A handful of Florida lawmakers requested emergency funding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian but opposed legislation last month that included billions of dollars in disaster relief.
Twelve House lawmakers from Florida penned a letter to Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday asking for their support in prioritizing an emergency supplemental package for the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, which tore through the Sunshine State last week.
But in late September, the group of 12 voted against a stopgap spending bill that included millions of dollars in disaster relief.
Florida GOP Reps. Greg Steube, Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Byron Donalds, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Brian Mast, Michael Waltz, Neal Dunn and Daniel Webster all signed the letter.
A spokesperson for Donalds told The Hill in a statement that “the Congressman stands by his vote and commends his fellow GOP House members in the Florida Delegation for taking the same action,” calling the measure “a continued blank check for Biden and Congressional Democrats.”
“The Continuing Resolution (CR), where [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] cunningly placed the disaster relief aid, was full of reckless spending that generally had nothing to do with funding to the Congressman’s district and other disaster areas of need,” the spokesperson added.
Waltz told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday that he has “consistently voted against Continuing Resolutions because they limit our military’s ability to train and modernize.”
He also said the funds in the stopgap bill “does not include needs or damage assessments specific to Florida or Hurricane Ian.”
“In the near future, Congress will provide a supplemental disaster aid bill for Hurricane Ian that will fund the multitude of federal agencies that provide disaster resources- from agriculture to infrastructure,” he added.
The continuing resolution, which Congress passed and President Biden signed into law, included $2 billion in disaster relief and $18.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund for its response to current and future disasters.
The FEMA provision is language that allows the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to use its full year of allotted funds up front. According to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee, those funds could be used to respond to declared disasters, including Hurricane Ian.
The stopgap bill did not, however, include direct funding for Hurricane Ian.
Ten Republican House members supported the continuing resolution, none of whom represent districts in Florida.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm last week, leaving death and destruction in its path. More than 100 fatalities have been reported in the state.
“We ask the House Committee on Appropriations to urgently work with the Florida delegation in drafting an emergency supplemental appropriations package as we accumulate damage assessments,” the group wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “We ask that you exclusively focus on recent hurricane disasters in this package, and free from any language that is not directly related to the hurricane relief and recovery efforts.”
The Hill reached out to the 12 lawmakers for comment on why they opposed the continuing resolution despite the fact that it contains disaster relief.
Those 12 Floridians are not alone in requesting emergency funding for their state despite voting against the continuing resolution.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) last weekend asked Congress for assistance following the hurricane.
“Dear Congress: On behalf of my fellow Florida Man in grave need of assistance…. Just send us like half of what you sent Ukraine. Signed, Your Fellow Americans,” Gaetz, who voted against the continuing resolution, wrote on Twitter.
Gaetz commented on the continuing resolution on his podcast last week, pointing to the timing of the measure — it lasts through mid-December — and other provisions, including financial assistance for Ukraine.
“Everyone expects the Democrats are going to lose the House in November. And so after losing the House, Nancy Pelosi still wants the opportunity to dictate budget terms into potential Republican control, and some Republicans were so dumb they went along with this,” Gaetz said on his podcast.
Across the Capitol, Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R), who previously served as governor of the Sunshine State, is also pushing for a relief package in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. He went so far as to call for the Senate to reconvene to take up the measure.
Senators are not scheduled to be back in Washington until next month. Scott was among the 25 Republicans who opposed the continuing resolution in the upper chamber.
“Once we have the information we need from FEMA and our state and local officials, we cannot delay action on a clean aid package. If that means reconvening the Senate, then that is what we must do,” Scott wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
Last week, he and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) — the top lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee — asking for support in crafting a disaster supplemental “to provide much needed assistance to Florida.”
“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,” the duo wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 30. “These provisions must be made a priority and considered at the earliest opportunity.”
Rubio was not present for the vote on the continuing resolution last month. According to The Washington Post, he was in Florida to review damage caused by the hurricane.
Reached for comment, Scott’s office referred The Hill to a statement the senator put out last week responding to a report from The Washington Post that pointed out his opposition to the continuing resolution.
Scott called the report “misleading” and argued that the stopgap bill did not include any funding for Hurricane Ian. He also noted his support of the disaster relief provision.
“Prior to Ian’s development, l made clear that I fully supported the proposed disaster funding for other states and urged [Senate Majority Leader Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] to put that up for a stand-alone vote. He refused, and delayed this relief so he could use it as a political weapon to stick in a CR that will end up fueling billions for Democrats’ radical agenda right before they lose power,” Scott wrote in a statement.
“This CR failed to fund the federal government until the new Congress begins in 2023, and that is why I could not support it,” he added.
But despite those defenses, some Democrats are pouncing on the Florida Republicans who are asking for emergency assistance despite opposing the continuing resolution last month.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Republicans in her state failed to “put the interests of those suffering from tragedy above their political fortunes.”
“Today, Florida’s U.S. House Republicans failed every family still reeling in our state who will soon need the federal government’s full strength and resources to rebuild and recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian,” she wrote in a statement last week.
Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who is embroiled in a contentious Senate race against Rubio, knocked her opponent for the missed vote.
“In the United States Senate, I’ll never put partisan politics over delivering disaster relief for Floridians,” she wrote on Twitter.
On Friday, the Florida senator knocked his opponent for not voting for relief following hurricanes Irma and Maria — as reported by The Miami Herald — accusing her of hypocrisy.
“The hypocrisy here runs deep, right? She voted against bills that had hurricane relief in the past, including relief for Puerto Rico and Florida, because she didn’t like other things in the bill as well,” Rubio said during an interview on the “Guy Benson Show.”
Updated on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7:01 p.m.