President Joe Biden and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis have been in constant talks with one another following the landfall of Hurricane Ian in Florida — but despite DeSantis’s willingness to collaborate with the president for hurricane relief for his state, he has a history of opposing hurricane relief funds for areas that are more Democratic-leaning.
“The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” Biden said..
As of Thursday evening, there were 11 confirmed deaths in the state, but that number is expected to rise.
“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” Biden said.
Biden has said that he plans to travel to Florida to examine the wreckage with DeSantis when “conditions allow” it. He also plans to travel to Puerto Rico to survey damages from Hurricane Fiona, which occurred earlier this month.
The president noted that his and DeSantis’s political views are “totally irrelevant to the situation at hand.”
“This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically, this is about saving people’s lives, homes and businesses,” Biden said. “That’s what this is about.”
As of Thursday, Biden and DeSantis had spoken to each other four or five times in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the storm. DeSantis, who requested federal help for the disaster that ripped through his state this week, has said that he is “thankful” for Biden’s help during this time.
Notably, one of DeSantis’s first actions as a member of Congress in 2013 was to oppose billions of dollars in aid for relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York, New Jersey and other northeastern states that year. DeSantis voted against a $9.7 billion spending package to help those areas, claiming that he took issue with the proposal because it lasted more than a couple of years and was not fiscally responsible.
“The problem with the Sandy package was, if you look at it, only 30 percent of it was going to be spent in the first two years,” DeSantis said at the time.
When it comes to his own state, however, DeSantis has already noted that the relief efforts from the federal government will likely take several years to complete. The price tag for Hurricane Ian is also likely to far exceed that of Hurricane Sandy in 2013; some predict that federal aid to Florida could cost as much as $70 billion.
DeSantis’s opposition to funding hurricane aid in northeastern states has been widely condemned.
DeSantis, as well as Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, “voted against help for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. What absolute hypocrites,” lawyer Tristan Snell said on Twitter. “Florida should get all the help it needs, but Florida also deserves better leaders.”
Former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy, who often discusses political issues on his social media platforms, also denounced DeSantis’s hypocrisy.
“As a Congressman Ron DeSantis voted against federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Guess what DeSantis wants now? Federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Ian,” Van Gundy wrote.
DeSantis is a “total hypocrite,” Van Gundy added. “But Biden will do what DeSantis never does — he’ll put people above politics.”