Val Demings has repeatedly chastised Republican Sen. Marco Rubio for failing to vote on a broad spending bill last week that would have allocated additional billions of dollars for natural-disaster relief, accusing her opponent in this year’s election of failing Florida residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
However, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee has not always supported legislation that includes hurricane relief funds.
Demings, an Orlando congresswoman, voted against large legislative packages that would have delivered aid to hurricane-affected areas like Florida and Puerto Rico in 2017 and 2018, arguing that the relief efforts were either insufficient or were paired with legislation she opposed.
Despite Demings’ opposition, both bills — one containing tax provisions for hurricane victims and another containing aid to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria — were eventually approved with bipartisan support.
In each case, the bill was supported by Charlie Crist, the party’s gubernatorial nominee this year.
Demings’ opposition to the bills complicates her argument that Rubio’s missed vote — as well as his opposition to a relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims in 2012 — proves he won’t provide enough federal aid to help Florida recover from Hurricane Ian, despite the fact that the two candidates’ elections are less than a month away.
The Demings campaign said in a statement that Rubio should have been in Washington for last week’s vote and should never have voted against Hurricane Sandy relief.
“Marco Rubio doesn’t show up for work, even when Florida is in crisis,” Demings’ spokesman Christian Slater said. “Marco Rubio has yet again failed to show up and deliver for Florida, as he did with his vote against Hurricane Sandy relief.” It’s disgraceful that Rubio would rather skip work than fight for those affected by Hurricane Ian.”
Congress passed a short-term government funding bill last week that included nearly $19 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. It was money that the agency could use to assist parts of Florida in their recovery from Hurricane Ian, which officials estimate could have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage when it hit last week.
On the Thursday before the Senate vote, Rubio was in Lee County surveying storm damage. He has since called on Congress to pass a disaster supplemental spending package to aid in the state’s recovery efforts.
Demings voted for the legislation on Friday by proxy, according to Slater, when the House vote was held. The Senate does not allow votes by proxy.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, the senator said he would support the supplemental bill as long as it did not include spending unrelated to Hurricane Ian damage.
The back-and-forth over previous votes for hurricane relief has become a political flashpoint in Florida campaigns this week, after Ian left the state and its politics resumed in full force.
Democrats have criticized Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who voted against last week’s government funding bill, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also voted against Hurricane Sandy relief in 2012 when he was in Congress, as they try to persuade voters that the GOP officials’ response to the hurricane was inadequate.
Demings, in particular, has leaned into that criticism this week, frequently posting on social media and giving speeches in which she claims the senator failed to do his job due to last week’s missed vote and his opposition to Sandy relief.
Rubio has defended his vote against Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, which devastated parts of New Jersey and New York in 2012, claiming that the bill included spending unrelated to storm recovery efforts. Critics have claimed that his vote was motivated by partisan politics, citing his subsequent presidential run in 2016 and his political need to ingratiate himself with fiscal hawks opposed to increased government spending.
Demings voted against a 2017 bill aimed at extending the Federal Aviation Administration’s tax authority, which also included tax provisions for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the latter two of which hit Puerto Rico that year.