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Editorial: DeSantis' flip-flop on hurricane relief is a study in right-wing hypocrisy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Op Eds

How encouraging that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has discovered the importance of setting aside partisan rancor to help suffering Americans in times of crisis. DeSantis’ willingness to shelve his usual attacks on the Biden administration to politely request emergency federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Ian is an inspiring example of constructive bipartisanship — as is Biden’s announcement that the government will bear a big part of the expense.

It’s interesting, though, that DeSantis took exactly the opposite stance a decade ago when he joined other hard-right members of Congress who argued against generous federal recovery aid when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast.

Still, President Joe Biden is right to bolster federal aid to Florida. Its residents shouldn’t be punished for their governor’s flip-flopping ways. But given DeSantis’ presidential aspirations, the rest of the country shouldn’t forget it.

In early 2013, Congress authorized $9.7 billion in flood insurance aid for the victims of Sandy, which had inflicted especially severe damage two months earlier in New York and New Jersey. New York was dominated by Democrats but New Jersey had a Republican governor, Chris Christie, who drew heavy criticism from congressional Republicans for touring the devastation with then-President Barack Obama and praising the administration’s emergency response.

The aid package drew 67 “no” votes in the House, all from Republicans. DeSantis, one of just two voting no from hurricane-prone Florida, had been sworn in one day before the vote. “I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy,” DeSantis said in a statement at time, but he argued that authorizing the money “with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible.”

DeSantis’ tune changed last week. After Ian ravaged his state, he asked the Biden administration for emergency federal funding — with, notably, no mention of offsetting cuts to cover the cost. “When people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything,” he said in an interview, it’s time to “put politics aside.”

 

Fortunately for DeSantis, Biden (unlike DeSantis himself) is consistent in that view. The administration’s open-ended vow of federal assistance has been so quick and unreserved that even DeSantis and other Republicans have been compelled to sing its praises.

DeSantis, like so many elected Republicans today, seems to care about fiscal responsibility only when it can be used as a partisan cudgel. There was no talk of fiscal responsibility when DeSantis recently drew from a $12 million fund to transport dozens of deceived Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a cruel political stunt.

DeSantis won his congressional seat amid a tea party wave that questioned the premise that government should help vulnerable Americans in times of crisis. Assuming DeSantis runs for president, among the first questions voters should ask is: Which DeSantis is he, and why should anyone support a hypocrite?

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©2022 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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