PHOENIX — Arizona House Speaker Andrew Tobin said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to reject aid for Yarnell, Ariz. was politically motivated.
“I have to tell you, you might not think it’s political, but I’ve been in politics now…if this doesn’t smell like it, I don’t know what does,” he told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos on Friday.
Tobin said he was appalled at the decision from FEMA, especially considering President Barack Obama’s willingness to spend on programs that are focused on people.
“I couldn’t be more disgusted,” he said. “This is a president who thinks ‘cash for clunkers’ is a good idea, this is a president who has no problem sending money around the world.”
Tobin said President Barack Obama intentionally avoided speaking on the federal aid when he was in Phoenix on Tuesday.
“This president doesn’t like this state,” he said. “I think it’s time for our members of the Congressional House to call over there or maybe go to the floor now and tell the president, ‘Hey, this isn’t right.'”
Approval from FEMA would have brought long-term federal recovery programs to Yavapai County to help survivors and businesses that didn’t have adequate insurance. It also would allow a federal team to do flood prevention work.
However, FEMA said in a letter that the funds it sent to aid firefighting efforts were sufficient and it felt that state and local coffers should be enough to cover the damage done to uninsured private homes.
“At the end of the day, if the president hates Arizona so much, we’ll just take care of ourselves,” said Tobin, who compared the residents of Yarnell to those whose homes suffered damage during Superstorm Sandy.
“I guess he can say this is a small fire in comparison, but 20 percent of that town is gone,” he said.
But when he got down to the core of the issue, Tobin said the rejection of the funds were really about the lives of those affected.
“This is about people,” he said. “Just because there’s not a lot of them and just because there wasn’t a lot of acres, doesn’t mean that their house that’s gone is any less deserving than someone who lost their house in a hurricane back East.”
Tobin said Obama should have worked some money into the budget before leaving on vacation if he knew FEMA was going to reject Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s request for federal aid.
Brewer, along with senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, will possibly appeal the decision.