EXCLUSIVE: As Hurricane Isaac Targets New Orleans, GOP Rep. Calls For Making Disaster Relief Contingent On Budget Cuts

TAMPA, Florida — Though many Republicans are fretting about the optics of holding their party’s convention as Hurricane Isaac slams into New Orleans, a leading Tea Party congressman is vowing to use the opportunity to extract budget cuts if Congress wants to dole out disaster funding to help victims.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told ThinkProgress at a Hispanic Leadership Network luncheon that Republicans should take a similar approach with disaster funding for Hurricane Isaac as they did after natural disasters last year. In 2011, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) led the Republican charge to deny disaster funding following major hurricanes and tornadoes unless the federal budget was cut in other areas.

Labrador said that Congress must “readjust everything we do” in order to find cuts to pay for Hurricane Isaac disaster relief. “If there’s emergencies, we don’t always need to keep borrowing money,” said the freshman Republican.

KEYES: Last year, for instance, after the Missouri tornado, Leader Cantor was a real “hold-the-line” to call for budget cuts to pay for disaster relief. Do you think that’s still the right strategy going forward if there’s damage from Hurricane Isaac?

LABRADOR: I think government should do what every family does. If you have an emergency, then you rethink your priorities and you still invest and you still do the things that you need to do to take care of your family. That’s what government should do is always reconsider. If there’s emergencies, we don’t always need to keep borrowing money, but we can actually take care of people that are in damaged communities by reconfiguring what we’re doing in Washington D.C.

KEYES: So find cuts to pay for those disaster funds?

LABRADOR: Find different ways to do it, absolutely. We have to readjust everything we do.

Watch it:

Disaster funding has traditionally been a non-controversial issue, with both parties typically agreeing to offer immediate help to victims and worry about congressional budget matters later. Tea Party Republicans broke that long-standing consensus last year, demanding dollar-for-dollar cuts to pay for any relief for victims of Hurricane Irene or the massive tornado in Joplin, Missouri.


Isaac, which is expected to make landfall overnight, will hit on the 7-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Chicago Tribune estimates that as much as $36 billion in property could be at risk.