House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), along with some of his House GOP colleagues, have been saying that disaster aid for the areas affected by Hurricane Irene must be offset by, in Cantor’s words, “savings elsewhere.” Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) said yesterday on Bloomberg News that budget cuts must be a prerequisite for disaster aid in order to reassure “the business markets.” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) added that the days when disaster relief could be funded without offsetting budget cuts “are gone.”
However, not everyone in the GOP agrees that disaster funding should play second fiddle to the GOP’s budget-slashing agenda. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) yesterday broke with Cantor, saying that “I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate“:
Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, breaking with Cantor, on Tuesday suggested that deficit-spending concerns should not be a factor as Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) respond to the hurricane.
“My concern is that we help people in need,” McDonnell said during his monthly radio show. “For the FEMA money that’s going to flow, it’s up to them on how they get it. I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate.”
The Hill noted that “before Irene hit, McDonnell had requested emergency help from FEMA in 10 districts, including Cantor’s. All the requests were granted.”
The offsets that Cantor has said would be acceptable to him include cuts to first responders, which prompted Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to ask, “Does it really make sense to pay for response and reconstruction costs from past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for future disasters?” But Cantor hasn’t always believed that disaster aid should be contingent on budget cuts. In fact, in 2004, he requested federal aid following Tropical Storm Gaston, saying that “the magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle,” without a word about offsetting cuts being necessary.