Over the last two days, two Republican governors — Govs. Chris Christie (NJ) and Bob McDonnell (VA) — have publicly rebuked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) call that aid to areas affected by Hurricane Irene be first offset by budget cuts. “Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later,” Christie said. “My concern is that we help people in need,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate.”
However, there are still plenty of Republicans moving into Cantor’s corner. During a town hall meeting yesterday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said that he agrees with Cantor that disaster aid needs to be offset by budget cuts:
Toomey, after a public town hall in Coudersport, was asked whether he agreed with comments made by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor about offsetting federal funding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
“I do agree with that,” Toomey said. “It’s not as though we’re unprepared for this situation. We know that at any time in this great country of ours there are storms, there are floods…” Toomey said it is “reasonable” to have a federal response, but that it should either be budgeted up front or offset by other spending cuts.
Thousands of Pennsylvania residents are still without power from the storm, while 13 counties in the state have been approved for federal aid. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said that it’s “far too early to know” an exact damage figure.
Along with Toomey, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) agreed yesterday that disaster aid should be offset so that “it’s just not adding willy-nilly to the national debt.” Previously, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) said that budget cuts must be a prerequisite for disaster aid in order to reassure “the business markets,” while Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) opined that the days when disaster relief could be funded without offsetting budget cuts “are gone.”