In the wake of Hurricane Irene, FEMA is quickly running out of money. Specifically, FEMA’s crucial “disaster-relief fund, used to reimburse local governments and individuals for the costs of cleanup and repairs, is running dangerously low.” Already payments for some projects are being delayed. Early estimates suggest that damage from Irene could exceed $10 billion.
Eric Cantor and the House GOP leadership appear to agree that more funds are needed, but won’t help until President Obama and the Senate agree to more budget cuts. Yesterday on Fox News, Cantor made clear that he would not support any additional funding unless matched with “savings elsewhere.”
What cuts, specifically, does Eric Cantor want in exchange for disaster relief funds? On Fox, Cantor said he supported $1 billion in disaster relief funding as part of the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which contains massive cuts to FEMA and first responders.
In July, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) detailed the problems with the legislation championed by Cantor:
The House bill slashes funding for grants to equip and train first responders by 40 percent. This is on top of the 19 percent cut in FY 2011. 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.
Their proposal also slashes the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operations by 6 percent at a time when the agency has never been busier. Does it really make sense to pay for response and reconstruction costs from past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for future disasters?
Cantor’s insistence on budget cuts to off-set any expenditures is a recent phenomenon. During the Bush administration, Cantor supported the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and raising the debt limit (five times) without a penny in spending cuts.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney weighs in on Cantor: “I cant help but say that I wish that commitment to looking for offsets had been held… during the previous administration”