Florida Lawmakers Have Changed Their Tune on Disaster Relief

Rubio, Scott, and DeSantis just pulled a classic Republican about-face: opposing federal disaster aid packages until the moment their own constituents need it.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) just pulled a classic Republican about-face: opposing federal disaster aid packages until the moment their own constituents need it. They join the likes of Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), who have pulled similar switch-ups in the past.

Rubio and Scott’s change of heart came quickly. Last Thursday, one day after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, the senators declined to vote in favor of a stopgap spending bill that included approx $18.8 billion in additional funding for FEMA to respond to Ian and future disasters. Scott voted against it, while Rubio abstained. All 16 Florida Republicans in the House also voted against the bill, which ultimately passed both chambers regardless of their lack of support.

But just one day later, on Friday, the two GOP senators sent a joint letter to the chairs of the Senate Committee of Appropriations requesting “much-needed assistance to Florida.”

Then, on Sunday, Rubio appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he was questioned about his past response to Hurricane Sandy, which decimated many parts of the northeast U.S. in 2012. When asked by host Dana Bash about voting against a $50 billion relief bill, Rubio said he did so because of “pork” — a term lawmakers use for unrelated spending projects in a bill.

Bash then pushed back on the examples of pork he cited, pointing out that one of the elements of the bill he mentioned was, in fact, included in order to repair damage from natural disasters.

“It had been loaded up with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief,” Rubio said when asked why his colleagues should vote for relief for his state when he didn’t do so for theirs. “I would never put out there that we should go use a disaster relief package for Florida as a way to pay for all kinds of other things people want around the country.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis has also changed his tune on both disaster relief and President Joe Biden. The governor, who also voted against the 2013 Hurricane Sandy relief package while serving in the House, appears to have shifted his thinking.

While appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show last week, DeSantis said, “We live in a politicized time, but when people are fighting for their lives, when their livelihood is at stake, lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, you won’t be able to.”

DeSantis, who is expected to make a presidential run in 2024, has had to play nice with Biden over the past few days after criticizing his administration for basically two years straight. The governor has gone from calling the Biden administration the “Brandon administration” a year ago to praising him for planning ahead of the hurricane’s landfall. Biden, for his part, has been gregarious in allowing DeSantis to temporarily bury the hatchet, telling reporters last week that their pre-existing frosty relationship is “totally irrelevant” when it comes to his admin’s ability to provide assistance to Florida post-Hurricane Ian.

As of today, the storm’s death toll has reached at least 88 people, according to CNN, with the search for survivors continuing. Approx half of those deaths have been reported in Lee County, Florida, where Hurricane Ian made landfall after shifting course unexpectedly as a Category 4 storm.