Firefighters and rescue workers who arrived in Joplin, MO, found that the deadly tornado that hit the state Sunday had left a “barren, smoky wasteland” in its path. Rescue workers worked through more storms in an effort to find potential survivors, even as the death toll rose to at least 119. President Obama pledged full support to the state Monday, telling survivors, “We’re here with you. We’re going to stay by you.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), however, said that before Congress approved federal funds for disaster relief, it had to offset the spending with cuts to other programs. The Washington Times reports:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri’s tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.
“If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,” Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. The term “pay-fors” is used by lawmakers to signal cuts or tax increases used to pay for new spending.
In 2005, Republicans criticized then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) for his willingness to fund relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by adding to the deficit. “It is right to borrow to pay for it,” he said at the time, explaining that cuts could “attack” the economy.
Meanwhile, as Climate Progress reports, the government’s tornado forecasting service faces cuts in the GOP Congress, including cuts to NOAA weather satellite that “could halve the accuracy of precipitation forecasts.” Accurate and early forecasting is tremendously important, as “tornado deaths in the United States have gone from 8 per 1 million people in 1925 to 0.11 per 1 million people today — a trend largely attributed to early-warning systems fed by advanced meteorology and the introduction of Doppler radar.”
Cantor posted an update on Twitter, saying, “Our hearts are w/ victims of #Joplin tragedy. House #GOP ready to help & has found offsets for emergency $$$.”
Missouri Rep. Russ Carnahan (D) responded on MSNBC’s The Ed Show Tuesday night:
“We have a long history in this country of backing up people when they’re at their worst, when they’ve gone through natural disasters. … But to have that debate in the face of the suffering we’ve seen in Joplin is just plain wrong.” [...]
“When you talk about cutting clean energy programs versus cutting subsidies for big oil, let’s have that debate here in Washington. But let’s not have it on the backs of people of Joplin.”
The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that the House was preparing a $1 billion spending package for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund disaster relief in Missouri and other states that have been hit by flooding and storms. The offset comes from a $1.5 billion cut to a program that helps encourage the production of fuel efficient vehicles.