Congressman Gaetz explains vote against hurricane relief funding

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FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Just weeks apart, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma left both Texas and Florida in a state of emergency.

Now as the states begin to recover, FEMA funding has quickly withered away. So in an effort to add more funding to the federal agency, Lawmakers in Washington pushed through a bill that would do just that.

Friday, the Senate and President Trump approved a bill that would give $15-billion to disaster relief in the wake of the two major hurricanes.

Local Congressman Matt Gaetz took a stand and voted against the bill, saying it's not the relief funding he is opposed to, but rather the $1-trillion increase to the nation's debt limit.

"Well I voted for disaster relief when it was just an up or down vote on disaster relief but unfortunately Mitch McConnell and the swamp creatures over in the Senate sent back a bill that didn't just respond to disaster, it created over a trillion dollars in new spending authority. That's the kind of addiction to spending that Northwest Floridians are against," said Gaetz.

But some locals said they don't agree with his decision.

We always come up for money for everything else, every little thing. Building a wall, whatever, but this is humanity. This is about the people. This is about people suffering. It's not the same thing. You've got to look at it as different. And I think he needed to step back and think about that before he made this vote," said Fort Walton Beach resident, Richard Higgins.

"Look the Federal Government has a role to play in disaster relief. We all recognize that but instead of prioritizing disaster relief over some of the other spending decisions we make, we chose to just create a trillion dollars in new spending authority for Washington. That is terrible behavior and that's why I'm glad I voted against it," Gaetz added.

Gaetz referred to this budget increase as 'entitlement spending', saying that is what is driving the nation's debt higher.

"The House budget committee, which I serve on has passed a budget that reduces entitlement spending by more than $200-billion. So if we began advancing the reforms that get our fiscal house in order. That gets us on the path to a balanced budget. That, of course, I'm willing to ensure that we meet the needs of the country but if we aren't going to make the responsible decisions to cut spending, we cannot just keep raising the debt limit. That will lead to the greatest generational theft that the planet earth has ever known," said Gaetz.

"I think it's irresponsible. The state of Florida has been ravaged by this hurricane, even though it didn't affect us right here in the Panhandle, it wrecked the whole state, even across northern Florida," said Highness. "To come back and vote against the $15-million makes no sense. You can change your mind on certain things, but this is about humanity and helping the people. And helping the people right here in our country and so I think it's very irresponsible on his part."

"I think we've got to get to some of the structural issues that are driving our debt. And that's mainly entitlement spending. The United States of America has more than 100-trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities with entitlement spending," Gaetz explained. "The entire wealth of the planet earth is only $140-trillion. So all the FEMA money in the world will not save us from a very unfortunate fate if we do not cut spending in Washington and that's something I extend to do as a member of Congress."

Gate was one of 90 House Republicans who voted against the hurricane relief bill.

Florida Congressman Ted Yoho of Gainesville also voted against the relief money.