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October 30, 2012 at 8:48 AM

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Hurricane Sandy forces Mitt Romney off privatizing FEMA


As local and federal emergency response teams battle floodwaters in the Northeast, I'm reminded of the Republican presidential debate last year where Mitt Romney criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Under his administration, Romney vowed, states or even private companies would be encouraged to handle natural disasters. The Atlantic has a trancscript of that exchange.

What a difference a powerful hurricane - dubbed Frankenstorm - makes. Faced with millions of potential voters still without power and drinking water, Romney has shifted his stance on FEMA to the muddy middle. States still ought to oversee emergency management, the former governor of Massachusetts says, but they need the help of the federal government and FEMA.

Isn't that what we have now? Every state has an emegency management agency that coordinates disaster relief with FEMA and other areas of the federal government.

The Romney campaign tried to further clarify the GOP presidential nominee's position on FEMA with this statement:

“Governor Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions.”
“As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

Romney's credibility on the matter is challenged by one of his staunchest supporters, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Grappling with high winds and flooding like in the photograph above, Christie has been all over the airwaves today with effusive praise for President Obama and FEMA's response to Hurricane Sandy.

Could states really coordinate and manage responses to natural disasters that traverse geographical boundaries?

Here is an interactive from the Associated Press below.

AP Photo/The Press of Atlantic City: Michael Ein

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