Reporting Pat Kessler
Filed underNews, Politics, Reality Check, Seen On WCCO-TV, Syndicated Local, Watch + Listen, WCCO-TV Shows
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail on Wednesday, but refrained again from criticizing President Obama in light of the disaster on the East Coast.
But Romney is facing disaster questions of his own; over whether he supports abolishing FEMA — the federal agency in charge of cleanup and recovery.
Mitt Romney ignored questions about FEMA during an event his campaign called a “storm relief” effort.
And he won’t explain what he meant when he said last year that states should be in charge of disaster relief, or private business — not the federal government.
“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,” he said. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut? We should ask the opposite question — what should we keep?”
In fact, Romney is proposing to cap all federal spending, except Social Security, Medicare, and defense.
That would mean cuts to all other federal programs, including FEMA, to the tune of 34 percent or more.
Obama is proposing a 3 percent FEMA cut, including the Disaster Relief Fund.
That’s not the whole story.
Many states can’t handle the cost of a billion-dollar disaster, such as the Joplin tornado last year.
But Romney’s theory is that smaller disasters – i.e. the $100 million flooding in Duluth — could be paid for with state money.
Today, Romney issued a written statement that “FEMA plays a key role” preparing for, and responding to, natural disasters.
And he said as president, he “will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission.”
But Romney still does not answer the basic question: will he gut, or abolish FEMA, or even turn it over to the private sector?