This week, Virginia experienced a magnitude 5.8 earthquake, one of the most powerful tremors on the east coast since 1897. As Virginians scramble to assess the damage, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) quickly returned from his trip in Israel to survey the damage done to his congressional district.
“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” Cantor said. That role? The bare minimum. According to Cantor, Congress’s traditional practice of providing disaster relief without strings attached — a policy its followed for years — is going way beyond the call of duty. If Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) asks for federal aid, Cantor insists that the relief be offset elsewhere in the federal budget:
The next step will be for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to decide whether to make an appeal for federal aid, Cantor said. The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget.
“All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” Cantor said in Culpeper, where the quake damaged some buildings along a busy shopping thoroughfare. [...]
Cantor did not offer specifics on potential offsets.
While touring the damage in his district, Cantor surmised, “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.” As the Insurance Information Institute notes, “earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.” So, for Cantor, the problem here is that Virginians didn’t have the foresight to predict an exceedingly rare natural disaster and pay out of their own pocket in advance.
If absolutely nothing else, Cantor is at least consistent in his callous attitude. When Americans were struggling to recover from the deadly tornado that tore through south in May, Cantor also demanded that any disaster relief be offset with cuts. Apparently, to Cantor, the “appropriate role” for public servants is to completely fail the public they serve.
Sanjiv Sarwate says, “Now, now, if you pay for earthquake damage relief, you’re simply encouraging future earthquakes. It’s the same logic that applies to their views on unemployment insurance and poverty relief.”
Even as Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast – Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has already declared a state of emergency in Virginia – Cantor is also refusing to pay for hurricane disaster relief unless Congress cuts spending elsewhere. When asked about paying for potential hurricane damage by TPM, Cantor spokesperson Laena Fallon responded, “as you know, Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts.”