DeSantis shoots down Rick Scott on COVID funds ahead of potential 2024 campaign

DeSantis shoots down Rick Scott on COVID funds ahead of potential 2024 campaign

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  • February 2, 2023
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Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) dismissed an idea proposed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) that states should return unused COVID-19 funds to the federal government to pay off the national debt, saying that federal officials should worry about keeping “their house in order.”

In January, Scott suggested that any COVID relief money doled out to governors that was not spent could help alleviate some of the national debt, as the United States hit the debt ceiling on Jan. 19. However, DeSantis rejected the idea, saying that Florida only has a “few hundred million” left in relief funds to spend.


“If you look at how much money that is … it’s like $100 million, $200 million, a few hundred million,” DeSantis said. “How much dent would that make in the debt? I mean seriously. I appreciate when federal folks are concerned about how we’re managing this. Why don’t they get their house in order? Why don’t they stop spending so much of our money?”

DeSantis had said in 2021, when pressed on the issue, that it did not make sense to send the money back to Washington, D.C., as it would just be reallocated to other states.

In response to DeSantis’s remarks, McKinley Lewis, Scott’s spokesman, said that the governor should stop spending money that came from a “wasteful” bailout.

“Sen. Scott opposed these state and local bailouts from the start,” Lewis said. “That’s why he worked to change the law to allow this money to be sent back to pay down America’s $31 trillion debt so governors and mayors could responsibly return unused taxpayer money.”

DeSantis and Scott’s relationship has been icy since DeSantis took over the governorship from Scott in 2018. At DeSantis’s inauguration ceremony, Scott abruptly left, leaving the new governor scrambling and having to ad-lib his speech, as he had many lines personally thanking Scott.

DeSantis and Scott - 080620
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, left, shakes hands with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis as he introduces him to supporters at Republican rally Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Scott is trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

John Raoux/AP

Scott also made more than 70 appointments on his way out of the governor’s office without consulting DeSantis. The senator also planned to throw a party in the governor’s mansion, even though DeSantis and his family had already moved into it.

At the time, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) defended DeSantis, calling Scott and his administration “inconsiderate.” Gaetz had previously worked with DeSantis in the House of Representatives from 2017 to 2018.

It is possible the friction between Scott and DeSantis could lead to a clash for the presidency in the future. Despite Scott saying that he is running for reelection in the Senate, not for the White House, both DeSantis and Scott have been widely discussed as 2024 GOP presidential candidates.

When asked about DeSantis, Scott merely said, “I don’t really know him very well. I’m glad he’s keeping taxes low and jobs continue to grow and stuff like that.”


Scott told NBC News that he will remain neutral in the presidential race, as it may come down to DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, both Florida residents, running.

“I’m focused on my race. I’m not focused on somebody else’s race,” he said. “My goal is to have a good working relationship with all Republicans. But I don’t plan on getting involved in an endorsement in a presidential primary. Think about it: Every Republican who is considering running in a presidential primary I know. So I’m going to focus on my race.”

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