Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday vowed not to support a federal relief bill aimed at aiding his state in its recovery from Hurricane Ian if it goes beyond providing disaster funding to include unrelated spending.
Rubio made the comments in an interview for CNN’s “State of the Union” program several days after the powerful storm made landfall.
The Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph (240 kph) has claimed the lives of more than 80 people in Florida and the Carolinas, Reuters reported, although the death toll is expected to keep rising.
Meanwhile, 613,386 electric customers in Florida were without power as of Monday, according to PowerOutage.us.
Rubio on Sunday noted that he has always supported disaster relief funding packages that are “clean” but that he would not vote for any bill that is “loaded up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm” and “smells like pork.”
Pork is a commonly used term to describe spending for other unrelated projects that’s placed into congressional spending legislation.
“I will fight against it having pork in it. That’s the key,” the senator said, adding that he feared that voting for such a package would deter other lawmakers from voting for disaster relief in the future.
“We shouldn’t have that in there because it undermines the ability to come back and do this in the future,” he said. “I think disaster relief is something we shouldn’t play with. We are capable in this country, in the Congress, of voting for disaster relief for key, 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.”
‘It’s Not About Politics’
“You will have people in the Senate, in the House that are going to vote against disaster relief because they view these disaster relief bills as ways for other people to get their pork and their pet projects done,” the Republican lawmaker added.
CNN host Dana Bash pointed out that Rubio had also voted against a similar federal relief bill following Hurricane Sandy, which struck the United States in 2012.
Rubio didn’t dispute this fact, stating that he did so because, again, some of the funding in the bill was unrelated to the disaster. But he noted that he ultimately supported a smaller version of the $50 billion package.
“It had been loaded up with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief. 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,” Rubio said.
Rubio praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its response to the disaster but noted that more help will be needed to aid in Florida’s recovery, noting that some communities have been completely “wiped out” by the hurricane.
“FEMA has been a great partner, the Biden administration has responded as they’ve said, and so there are no complaints there,” Rubio said. “These are professionals. I think in times like this, people realize that it’s not about politics. It shouldn’t be.”
The Biden administration has approved a major disaster declaration for Florida, allowing the U.S. government to utilize federal funding for aid in 13 counties in the state.
As of yet, the exact financial cost of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian is unclear, although research company CoreLogic estimates it could be anywhere between $28 billion and $47 billion.