Posted: 11:36 am Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
By Jamie Dupree
Again accusing the state of California of not doing enough to prevent wildfires on forest lands, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he was ordering federal emergency officials not to give any more disaster relief to the Golden State to deal with damage from wildfires, drawing a swift rebuke from Democrats in the Congress.
“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money,” the President wrote in a tweet, as he characterized California’s anti-wildfire efforts as ‘disgraceful.’
It was not immediately apparent what pushed the President to order FEMA – which is currently under a partial government shutdown – to stop disaster aid for California, which was ravaged in 2018 by several particularly intense wildfires.
“This deserves a 5-star award for idiocy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said of the President’s tweet, while the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom chided the President on Twiter as well.
Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses.
The people of CA — folks in Paradise — should not be victims to partisan bickering.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 9, 2019
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
It’s not the first time the President has thrown verbal barbs at California – even during wildfire events – as he has accused the state government of following ‘bad environmental laws’ and not properly ‘raking and cleaning’ forests, which he said is done successfully in Finland – a statement which drew widespread mockery from Democrats.
California officials have pointed out repeatedly to the President that the state manages just two to three percent of the forest lands in the Golden State – while the federal government is responsible for over half of those lands.
“Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state’s history last year,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who said the President was wrong to “play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster.”
“This is absolutely shameful,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) of the President’s announcement. “While communities like Paradise are still struggling with multi-billion dollar recovery efforts the President withholds funding for petty political gains. Where is his empathy?”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who leads the California delegation, which is now 45 Democrats to 7 Republicans – swiftly denounced the President’s threat.
.@POTUS seems to have forgotten, yet again, that The federal government manages 57 percent of the forests in California. The state manages 2 percent. Private owners are responsible for 39 percent. Maybe this colorful map can help! #FactCheckTrump pic.twitter.com/vVDiEfR7x2
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) January 9, 2019
.@realDonaldTrump’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes. @GOPLeader must join me to condemn & call on POTUS to reassure millions in CA that our govt will be there for them in their time of need https://t.co/YZJQug9zh0
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019
The President’s latest volley at the state of California comes after a disastrous mid-term election for Republicans in the Golden State, where Democrats picked up seven U.S. House seats, including a historic sweep of seats in Orange County, once the home of conservative Republicans in the state.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), whose district suffered devastating damage during the most recent Paradise fire, said he was surprised by the President’s tweet, saying it came out of ‘left field.’
“Cutting off money for FEMA isn’t the right approach,” LaMalfa told reporters, though he said he agreed with the President’s desire to force change in how the state of California deals with forest management.
“If you want to cut off money, cut off money for stupid things like high speed rail,” LaMalfa added.