Cantor demands spending-cut ransom for Missouri aid

The scenes out of Joplin, Missouri, are just horrific. The death toll from the deadliest single U.S. twister in generations stands at least 116 people, and rescue workers continue a frantic search for survivors. President Obama will be in the area over the weekend, and obviously the area qualifies for federal disaster relief.

It’s hard to believe, but House Republicans aren’t sure if they’re prepared to spend the money to assist the victims and community.

The No. 2 House Republican said that if Congress doles out additional money to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters across the country, the spending may need to be offset.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”

Finding ways to offset disaster relief funds could be a significant challenge for House Republicans and would put their promise to cut spending to a true test.

I don’t expect much from House Republicans, but this has managed to actually surprise me. When disaster strikes and there are deadly consequences, federal officials are expected to put aside politics and ideology, and commit whatever’s necessary to help.

Indeed, the far-right Washington Times noted* today that Tom DeLay, when he was the House Majority Leader, believed emergency disaster relief should be immediate, without regard for offsetting cuts. “It is right to borrow to pay for it,” DeLay said at the time, adding that cuts could undermine the economy.

Congratulations, Eric Cantor. You’ve made Tom DeLay look like a moderate, and created an environment in which Democrats wish he were back as Majority Leader.

What’s more, Travis Waldron also noted that, despite the recent tornado disasters, Republicans are also trying to gut tornado forecasting services.

* In context, the Washington Times was making the point that DeLay was wrong and Cantor is right. It’s an admittedly right-wing newspaper. Still, the contrast with Cantor and DeLay is important.