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ICYMI: Rubio Joins ABC’s This Week

Oct 2, 2022 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined ABC’s This Week to discuss the latest on Hurricane Ian and what comes next. 

  • “This is a character-altering event. It’ll change the character and nature of these communities. They’ll be rebuilt, but you can’t rebuild something that’s a slice of Old Florida and bring it back…. It won’t be the same.
  • “The human toll is still being calculated. That has no price. It’s extraordinary, and we fear that number will continue to rise.” — Senator Rubio

Want more? Read Rubio’s letter on the need for a disaster supplemental spending bill to help Florida recover, watch the full interview here, and see below for a lightly edited transcript.

On the devastation from Hurricane Ian:

“I don’t think it has a comparison. Not for Florida. Fort Myers Beach no longer exists. It’ll have to be rebuilt. It’ll be something different. It was a slice of Old Florida that you can’t recapture. Sanibel is basically flattened…. I was with the Coast Guard two days ago as we went over it. Even the structures that are standing have been damaged by water, are probably uninhabitable, and will have to be razed. 

“This is a character-altering event, and it’ll change the character and the nature of these communities. They’ll be rebuilt, but you can’t rebuild something that is a slice of Old Florida and bring it back. It’ll be something new, but it won’t be the same. And that’s the most heartbreaking part about it from an economic standpoint. 

“Obviously the human toll is still being calculated, and that has no price. It’s extraordinary. And we fear that that number will continue to rise.”

On Sanibel Island:

“Unfortunately, there are still some people left there that wanted to stay after the fact. But the island is cut off. You can’t get there. So at some point, they’re going to have to come off and restart their life somewhere else. 

“In the meantime, you see the bridge [that was broken]. It’s not just the parts that were washed away. That entire bridge is structurally compromised, potentially. So it’ll have to be rebuilt, and that will take a while. 

“And in the interim, I think our priority now is to identify the people that remain on Sanibel, who wanted to stay there but eventually have to come off because there’s just no way to continue with life. There is no way to restore the power. There’s no economy there. At some point they’ll have to be moved. 

“And as I said, that bridge will be rebuilt. That’ll take a very long time, a couple of years at least. And obviously, life in Sanibel is going to change in the interim.”

On federal aid to Florida:

“The federal response from day one has been very positive, as it’s always been in the past, and we’re grateful for that. The primary responder, the incident command, is in the state. The states step up, and then the states tell FEMA, ‘We need this or we need that.’ And that’s the process we’re working through right now. But it’s an extraordinary mobilization of the Army Corps, the Coast Guard, virtually every federal asset that’s available, not just through FEMA, but [also] other agencies. 

“And then [there’s] the individual assistance piece…. There will be many people who are going to need that individual assistance in the counties that have been approved for it. And they’ll need it because they need some place to live now and for the foreseeable future. And small businesses that no longer exist that are going to need help from the [Small Business Administration].”

On ensuring efficient use of federal disaster relief funds:

“We’ve had multiple votes for emergency relief all over the country, including wildfires, and I’ve supported all of them. In fact, I’ve supported them without pay-fors…. Other people say they want the money paid for. What I won’t support is things that are not emergency relief. 

“What we’re going to ask for Florida is what we’ve supported for every other state in the country that’s been affected by natural disasters, and that is emergency relief designed to be spent immediately to help the people affected. Now, what happened with that bill [for Superstorm Sandy] back in 2013 is it wasn’t just emergency relief. It included funding that should have gone through the normal funding process—cars for DHS, a roof at the Smithsonian, fisheries in Alaska—maybe very meritorious projects, but that should go through the normal process. 

“This is about emergency relief. So I think we will fight for the money, as we’ve supported for other states, that is needed for emergency relief, money that’s going to be spent now, not money that is going to be spent five years from now on projects that may be very worthy, may be very necessary, but that should go through the normal process, not the emergency process. That’s what we’ll ask for Florida. That’s what we’ve always supported.”

On the possibility of pork in a federal aid package:

“If [Florida isn’t] asking for it, and we’re saying we don’t need it, and it has nothing to do with emergency relief for Florida, then why would it be in there? Why would somebody add something from another state that’s not impacted by the storm? So it shouldn’t come to that…fork in the road, because it’s an unnecessary thing. It’s our request. That’s what I’ll ask my colleagues to support.

“[The package for Sandy had] requests made from not just some of those states that were impacted, but some of those allied with the people in those states. And the people from those states weren’t complaining about that spending at the time…. Maybe some of them were, but the majority of them were not. They just wanted the emergency piece. [Only] $1 out of $6 was for immediate spending. 

“So in our case, we’re not going to ask for the other $5. We’re just going to ask for that $1 that has to do with emergency relief. I imagine South Carolina and North Carolina, [and] other states in the Northeast, will have the same [approach]. And there are other natural disasters that are occurring. We may need to include Puerto Rico in that request, that they need additional funding. So that’s what we’re going to focus on, and that’s what we’re going to push forward, and that’s what we’re going to insist on. And we’re going to be consistent on that.”

On President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for Ukraine’s expedited admission to NATO:

“Ultimately, I think [Ukraine] is going to have to go through the normal process for expansion. Nor do I think that’s the answer to the problem here. I think the bigger challenge we face right now is that between now and the time all that goes down, Vladimir Putin, I think before he does some nuclear demonstration, could very well attack some NATO distribution point. Because that’s who he’s blaming. He’s blaming NATO, the U.S., our allies for supplying Ukraine with the weaponry that’s allowed Ukraine to be so effective. 

“So I think we need to start thinking through what the response [is] going to be if [Putin] attacks an airport in Poland or a train station on the border with Poland, and NATO forces that are embedded there to help with the distribution, not in combat, are killed or injured? And I think that’s going to be a real fork in the road for the alliance that could come sooner rather than later. And it’s the one that I focus most on right now. And I think that’s really going to be the more immediate challenge here.”