At least three times, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly demanded that the federal government only disburse disaster relief funding if Congress agreed to offsetting budget cuts elsewhere. This would hold desperately-needed disaster relief funding hostage unless Congress agreed to cuts elsewhere in the budget, an extraordinarily difficult prospect even in normal circumstances.
Though GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) became the public face of such intransigence in the wake of natural disaster last year, Romney and Ryan have repeatedly made clear they agree with Cantor’s position.
Last year, after a major tornado and flood struck the United States, Romney was asked in a debate about federal disaster relief funding. Romney not only suggested shuttering FEMA and sending responsibility for disaster relief “back to the private sector,” but also said it would be “immoral” for the federal government to fund disaster relief efforts without cutting the budget elsewhere. “It makes no sense at all,” Romney concluded. Watch it:
Ryan’s 2012 budget took a similar approach to disaster funding. As The Hill noted in May 2012, Ryan’s budget called for any disaster relief funding to “be fully offset within the discretionary levels provided in this resolution.” In other words, Congress would have to agree on cuts elsewhere in the budget if it wanted to dole out funds after a disaster. This idea was so far out of the mainstream that even Republican legislators abandoned the idea. Ryan opposed Obama’s efforts to build significant funding for disaster relief into the budget, a move intended to avoid the kinds of delays forced by Cantor and the Tea Party last year.
This is not a new position for Ryan. Long before he entered the political limelight, Ryan was still pushing a similar line on disaster funding. In a March 23, 2004 speech on the House floor, Ryan proposed that any emergency spending legislation, including disaster relief, be automatically offset by an “across-the-board” budget cut. After proposing legally-binding spending limits, Ryan bemoaned the fact that these emergency spending items “do not have to be paid for under our current budget rules.” Automatic cuts, Ryan explained, would help Congress offset funding that went to disaster relief.