Eric Cantor: No Disaster Money For You (Without Massive Budget Cuts)!
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) rarely misses an opportunity to demand draconian spending cuts. And he wasn’t about to let two recent disasters — the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene — go without finding a way to advance his extreme Tea Party agenda.
Immediately after the East Coast earthquake, Cantor announced that there would be no additional funds appropriated for disaster relief unless they were offset with budget cuts elsewhere. This statement drew near-immediate criticism, but that didn’t stop Cantor from doubling down days later as Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the East Coast. And then Cantor reaffirmed his hardline stance just as it was becoming clear that Hurricane Irene had devastated states up and down the East Coast from North Carolina to Vermont.
Here’s a rundown of the action — and why Eric Cantor’s extreme stance is both misguided and dangerous.
- Fellow Republicans Call Out Cantor
Cantor came in for harsh criticism from some unusual suspects — fellow Republicans, including the governor of his home state:
My concern is that we help people in need. 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.
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.
Cantor’s position did, however, receive one auspicious endorsement — that of Michael “Heckuva Job Brownie” Brown, the infamous FEMA director during the Bush administration’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.
- Cantor’s Plan Trades Disaster Funds For Huge Cuts To First Responders
When it comes to finding so-called offsets to pay for disaster relief, we don’t have to guess what Cantor and his fellow Republicans have in mind because they’ve already passed a bill laying out exactly what they want to cut. The House passed its annual appropriations bill for the Homeland Security Department (of which FEMA is part) back on June 6, and additional disaster monies came at the expense of massive cuts to first responders. The GOP bill cuts funds to train and equip first responders by 40 percent, which comes on top of a 19 percent cut for the current fiscal year.
In fact, the version of the bill that came to the House floor included hundreds of millions of dollars in GOP-sponsored that cuts would’ve caused approximately 2,200 firefighters across the country to lose their jobs. Thanks to an effort led by Democrats, the bill was amended on the floor to restore most of the funding to the firefighter program. For his part, Eric Cantor joined just 86 of his Republican colleagues in voting against restoring the firefighter funding, which nevertheless passed an overwhelming bipartisan basis with 147 Republicans joining all 186 Democrats to vote in support of firefighters.
- Cantor’s Plan Spends Six Times More on Afghan Police Training Than U.S. First Responders
In her critique of the House GOP’s misguided and dangerous cuts to first responders, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out a shocking fact:
The House defense appropriations bill provides $12.8 billion to train and equip troops and police in Afghanistan — yet the House provides only $2 billion for first responders here at home.
- Cantor’s Plan Puts Jobs, Relief At Risk
Because the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund is now running low on cash and may not be replenished in a timely manner thanks to Cantor’s political games, FEMA has been forced to put new relief and recovery projects on hold in order to conserve cash for immediate disaster needs. This halt to new projects will stall vital, job-creating infrastructure reconstruction efforts in states across the country. In Iowa, for example, $200 MILLION in reconstruction projects have been put on hold.
Projects that could continue rebuilding areas devastated in previous disasters and put Americans back to work will now languish for weeks, months, or even longer until Congress agrees to give FEMA the additional it needs.
- Cantor Is A Hypocrite
Not only has Cantor not demanded offsets for previous disaster spending, he even went so far as to vote against a 2004 amendment that would’ve offset disaster funding with spending cuts. That amendment was part of bill that addressed disasters including Tropical Storm Gaston, which damaged Cantor’s district. ThinkProgress’ Tanya Somanader has more:
Indeed, Cantor was among the first to request “immediate action” and millions in federal assistance to address “the magnitude of the damage” from Gaston. Cantor’s spokesman Brad Dayspring insists Cantor’s change of heart is justified by the increase in deficit. “We are living in different times,” he said.
The deficit and debt, of course, increased largely as a result of the Bush-era policies that Cantor fully supported and repeatedly voted for.
In One Sentence: Cantor’s extreme position on disaster funding is not only misguided and hypocritical, it will kill jobs and makes dangerous cuts to our first responders.
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