Florida’s Republican senators have asked for federal funding to help with relief after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state ― despite neither lawmaker voting on Thursday for billions in disaster relief, some of which would go toward hurricane recovery efforts.
On Friday, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a joint letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee chairs asking for funding to “provide much needed assistance to Florida.” The letter was first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat.
“Hurricane Ian will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States. Communities across Florida have been completely destroyed, and lives have been forever changed,” the senators wrote.
“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.”
But just one day earlier, Scott and Rubio refused to vote for such additional funding. The stopgap spending bill that the Senate passed on Thursday includes about $18.8 billion in additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to Hurricane Ian and future disasters.
All 25 senators who refused to vote for the bill were Republicans. Scott voted against it, and Rubio didn’t vote at all. The House also passed the bill, with Republicans overwhelmingly voting against it.
“The same week that #HurricaneIan brought so much chaos and destruction to Florida, not a single Florida Republican cared enough to vote in favor of Hurricane relief for the people in their own state hit hardest by the storm,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz tweeted on Saturday.
“That is a level of callous indifference and political opportunism that boggles the mind. Thankfully, [President Joe Biden] and Florida Democrats are doing the right thing when it counts, and we appreciate their efforts to help Florida rebuild once again.”
In 2013, Rubio voted against the $50 billion relief bill meant to help states impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which left a trail of damage on the East Coast and hundreds dead. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who was a congressman at the time, also voted against multiple bills that would have provided aid to victims of Sandy.
When asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday why other senators should support disaster relief for his state when he voted against Sandy relief, Rubio justified his decision by saying the bill “had been loaded up with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief.”
“What I didn’t vote for in Sandy is because they had included things like a roof for a museum in Washington, D.C., for fisheries in Alaska,” the senator said. Bash reminded Rubio that based on the congressional research report for the bill, the roof requested for the museum was damaged by the hurricane, and the Alaskan fisheries were impacted by a separate disaster.
Rubio added that he would not support an emergency relief bill for Hurricane Ian if it contained something not concerning the directly impacted areas.
Ian was one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S., hitting Florida the hardest last week before climbing up to the Carolinas. The Category 4 hurricane has resulted in a rising death toll ― escalating to at least 47 as of Sunday morning. Hundreds of thousands are without homes and power, and the destroyed infrastructure has left many people isolated.