Marco Rubio Confronted for Voting No on Sandy Relief as He Asks for Ian Aid

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, was confronted by CNN host Dana Bash on Sunday about his past votes against aid to help northeastern states recover from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as he currently pushes for Hurricane Ian aid.

Hurricane Ian struck Florida on Wednesday, leaving behind a trail of devastation in areas such as Fort Myers, where it first made landfall. The massive storm brought high winds and flooding that killed at least 44 people. However, local authorities expect the number of casualties to continue rising as Floridians realize the full impact of the storm.

Relief efforts are already underway, with Florida officials pushing for more federal aid to help rebuild their communities. Last week, President Joe Biden authorized some federal FEMA aid to the state. On Friday, Rubio, along with Senator Rick Scott, who is also a Florida Republican, wrote a letter to Senate leaders urging for a relief package.

"Hurricane Ian will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States," the letter reads. "Communities across Florida have been completely destroyed, and lives have been forever changed."

Dana Bash confronts Marco Rubio hurricane relief
Above, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, speaks to reporters outside the White House on September 15. CNN host Dana Bash confronted Rubio about voting against a sweeping aid package to help communities struck by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as he pushes for federal relief following Hurricane Ian. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The letter continues: "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."

On Sunday, during a discussion on State of the Union, Bash pressed Rubio about his past votes against aid for states—including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut—struck by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

"Why should other senators vote for relief for your state when you didn't vote for a package to help theirs?" Bash asked.

The senator defended his past votes against a sweeping $60 billion aid bill for Hurricane Sandy, saying it was filled with "pork," referring to the term for unrelated funding for spending projects that he said had nothing to do with disaster relief.

"I've always voted for hurricane and disaster relief. I've even voted for it without pay force," he said. "What I didn't vote for in Sandy is because they included things like a roof for a museum in Washington, D.C. [and] for fisheries in Alaska. It had been loaded up with a bunch of things that have nothing to do with disaster relief."

Bash clarified that the museum roof was damaged by the hurricane, and the fisheries were related to a separate disaster. She pressed Rubio about whether he would vote against Hurricane Ian relief if it contains "anything that smells like pork."

"Sure. I'll fight against it having pork in it. That's the key. We shouldn't have it in there because it undermines our ability to come back and do this in the future," Rubio said.

Rubio Supported Scaled-Down Relief Package

After Hurricane Sandy slammed into several northeastern states, causing widespread damage, Rubio voted against the $60.4 billion relief package requested by then-President Barack Obama. He said, as he did on Sunday, that the package contained too much unnecessary spending that did not benefit communities impacted by the storm.

However, he did vote for a scaled-down $24 billion relief package viewed as not containing the "pork" in the larger bill. The bill was ultimately voted down by Senate Democrats—as well as a handful of Republicans, some of whom supported a larger bill.

When reached by Newsweek on Sunday, a Rubio spokesperson pointed to his vote in favor of the $24 billion relief package.

Sen. Scott Calls Federal Government 'Major Partner' in Relief

Scott addressed members of Congress who may oppose relief aid to recover from Hurricane Ian during an appearance on NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday.

"The federal government is a partner in this, and I learned that as governor," the senator said. "The federal government is a major partner in helping families, helping businesses, helping businesses get back to normal. But you don't want to waste money."