WASHINGTON -- With reports that Hurricane Irene killed at least 10 people, knocked out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses and left many towns flooded over the weekend, presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) stood by his controversial belief that the federal government should reduce its role in disaster relief.
On Friday, Paul told NBC News that there was nothing "magic" about the Federal Emergency Disaster Agency (FEMA), which has been coordinating the response to Hurricane Irene.
"We should be like 1900, we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960," said the Texas congressman during a stop in New Hampshire.
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Paul -- who appeared on the show immediately after an interview with FEMA Director Craig Fugate -- stood by his remarks but acknowledged that it would take time to get rid of the agency.
"It's a system of bureaucratic central-economic planning, which is a fallacy that is deeply flawed. So no, you don't get rid of something like that in one day," he said.
"I propose that we save a billion from the overseas war mongering, bring half that home and put it against the deficit, and yes, tide people over until we come to our senses and realize that FEMA has been around since 1978. It has one of the worst reputations for a bureaucracy ever," added Paul, arguing that federal money often goes to contractors instead of disaster victims.
In 1900, the year that Paul cited as a model for disaster intervention, "the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred at Galveston, Texas," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than 6,000 people died.
In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit parts of the Texas Coast. Paul voted against a bill to send millions of dollars in federal aid to the area, which included his district.
Paul also said he would vote against any request for additional money for FEMA, if the Obama administration asks for an emergency funding bill. He said it was time citizens "transition out of the dependency on the federal government."
"Where would the money come from?" he responded. "We don't have any money. What are you going to do? Go hat in hand to China and borrow the money? ... The whole idea of FEMA is a gross distortion of insurance. "
Earlier in the show, host Chris Wallace asked Fugate whether FEMA will need emergency spending to deal with Irene. The FEMA director replied that they currently have enough funds to deal with the response, although the agency may need more as the full toll becomes clearer.
"Going into this storm, we had over $800 million still in the relief fund, which is allowing us to continue the response in the existing disasters and ramp up for this one," he said. "Really, Chris, it depends on how much damages and recovery and rebuilding costs and that will determine how much more funds we're going to need. We won't know that until we actually get out and see some of the damages and do some of the damage assessments. But for the response piece, we do have the funds there to go, and we are committing the resources, even as Irene moves up the coast."
Houses Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has not gone as far as Paul, but he has argued that any potential emergency funding for natural disasters must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. His remarks have been criticized by members of both parties.
Cantor's own district was in the path of Hurricane Irene, but when The Huffington Post asked his spokesman last week whether he would require offsets for aid specifically tied to the storm, he declined to comment.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more