Hurricane Ian Sparks Criticisms of DeSantis' Hurricane Sandy Response

All eyes are on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he attempts to lead his home state out of the "catastrophic" storm that is Hurricane Ian this week. But as the governor looks to the federal government for additional aid, his critics drew comparisons between DeSantis' requests to the Biden administration and his previous voting records on disaster relief.

"Just a reminder to New York...Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis (who was in Congress at the time) voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy," New York State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou tweeted on Wednesday. "But because we are New York, we care about everyone. Even when they don't care about us. ❤️"

"Just a reminder that, when he was in Congress and Sandy had devastated the tristate, Ron DeSantis voted against Federal aid. (Not suggesting Dems should now do [the] same. Just pointing out he's always been a heartless little s--t.)," author Stephen Whitty wrote on Twitter.

In recent days, DeSantis has put his feud with President Joe Biden on hold as he's turned to the White House for federal assistance for the destruction and devastation Ian is expected to leave behind.

Over the weekend, Biden approved an Emergency Declaration for the State of Florida within hours of receiving the request from DeSantis, a swift move that the governor has publicly said he is "very thankful" for. "The administration wants to help," DeSantis told Fox News on Tuesday. "They realize this is a really significant storm."

DeSantis Hurricane Ian Sandy
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Wyndham Hotel on August 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. DeSantis' critics drew comparisons between the governor's response to Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday. Jeff Swensen/Stringer

However, DeSantis sudden shift in tone caught the attention of residents from New York and New Jersey, who remember the governor's vote against a House bill less than a decade ago.

Back when the governor was a newly elected Florida congressman in 2013, DeSantis voted against a bill that would provide $9.7 billion in flood insurance aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Category 3 storm, which was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 hurricane season, inflicted nearly $70 million in damage and killed a total of 233 people across eight countries.

"In 2013, Ron DeSantis voted against federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy," former New York Assistant Attorney General Tristan Snell tweeted. "In 2022, Ron DeSantis asked President Biden for federal help with Hurricane Ian -- and Biden delivered."

In response to the criticisms, DeSantis' press secretary Bryan Griffin told Newsweek, "We are completely focused on hurricane response. As the governor said earlier, we have no time for politics or pettiness."

In a 2013 interview with The Florida Times-Union, DeSantis defended his vote, saying that while he sympathized with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the bill "was excessive" and fiscally irresponsible.

"If a hurricane came here, I would want any relief plan to be fiscally responsible," DeSantis said at the time. "[I] would not want to add extra things and say that because this is a vehicle that's moving, let's try to Christmas tree it out."

During a Wednesday press conference, DeSantis said that he had officially sent a letter to the Biden administration requesting the federal government provide 100 percent reimbursement up front for 60 days.

"I know sometimes they wait til different damage assessments are made, but in this situation, we've got a massive Category 4 storm," the governor said. "I think we all know there's going to be major, major impacts."

Earlier on Wednesday, Biden said the federal government would be "ready to help in every single way possible" during Ian and sent a stern warning to oil and gas companies about gouging prices amid the storm.