“Washington is addicted to spending, an addict will use any circumstance to justify their aberrant behavior, so Washington used these hurricanes to create $1 trillion in new room for spending.”
For more than a week, since even before Hurricane Irma wrought havoc from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has taken heat for voting against a bill that secured billions in hurricane relief funding for the state.
Never one to shy from criticism though, Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, said if he were given another chance to vote against the bill to which the disaster relief was tied, he “would gladly do it again.”
He said he voted against allocating $15 billion in disaster relief funding because it was tied, through a deal President Donald Trump negotiated deal with congressional Democrats, to raising the national debt ceiling.
“I’m not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling until we reform the way we spend money,” Gaetz said. “Washington is addicted to spending, an addict will use any circumstance to justify their aberrant behavior, so Washington used these hurricanes to create $1 trillion in new room for spending.”
Gaetz pointed out he had voted Sept. 6 in support of a standalone House bill to provide $6 billion in FEMA funding relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey. He said he would have also gone along with a Senate plan passed a day later to increase the amount to $15 billion — if that disaster funding hadn’t been tied to raising the debt ceiling.
“It is not correct to link disaster response to the federal government’s desire to keep spending money,” he said.
Fellow Florida U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville) sided with Gaetz in voting against the relief funding, and for the same reason. The national debt, Gaetz said, crossed the $20 trillion threshold last week.
“The reason that this ‘packaged’ bill was so problematic is that it gave Congress the easy way out. Fear of hitting the debt ceiling should have motivated Congress to pass a bold, fiscally-conservative budget,” he said in a statement released Friday. “The deadline for agencies’ reauthorization should have been a motivation to reform them, pruning their overreach and making them better stewards of your tax money.”
As a member of the budget committee, Gaetz said he had introduced a budget bill that would have cut federal entitlement spending by $200 billion. Had that legislation passed, he said, he might have been more inclined to support raising the debt ceiling.
Several media outlets, including the Washington Post, had framed Gaetz’s opposition to the relief funding/debt ceiling legislative package as voting against disaster relief.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to call this ‘fake news’ ... but it’s pretty darn close,” Gaetz said in his Friday statement.
Other news outlets have made it clear that Northwest Florida, the region Gaetz serves, was never directly in Hurricane Irma’s path. It did not suffer the extensive damage that most of the state suffered.
“When I cast a vote I didn’t know where the storm was going,” Gaetz said in response to that indictment. “I cast my vote based on principle, not circumstance.”
The freshman representative wound up on the losing end of a 316-90 House vote. The disaster relief/debt ceiling passage also passed in the U.S. Senate.
“All the FEMA funding in the world will not save us from our most unfortunate destiny if we don’t cut entitlement spending,” he said. “By simply kicking the can down the road for another 3 months, Congress ignored the desperate need to rein in our reckless government spending.”