Cantor: no emergency disaster relief without cuts

I’m well aware of the political norms that say it’s wrong to question the motives of those you disagree with. We’re not supposed to make disagreements personal, and we’re not supposed to accuse officials of being bad people.

I’ll bite my tongue, then, and just say that the Republican approach to disaster relief is morally reprehensible.

If you can’t watch clips online, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) appeared on Fox News this morning to confirm what he and his office have been saying all along: Republicans won’t allow emergency aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene unless Democrats meet GOP demands: dollar-for-dollar spending cuts elsewhere.

In the interview, the dimwitted Majority Leader tried to make this sound like common sense — instead of an unprecedented move. Remember, no modern Congress, regardless of which party was in the majority, has ever demanded offsets in response to American natural disaster, not even Tom DeLay’s.

Cantor also said House Republicans have “already” dealt with this by approving $1 billion in disaster aid in May, paying for it by cutting funds for a renewable energy program. Whether the Majority Leader understands what he’s saying or not is unclear, but the costs associated with the weekend’s hurricane will far exceed $1 billion.

Let’s also not lose sight of the larger context here. As far as Eric Cantor is concerned, launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not need to be paid for. Tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires do not need to be paid for. Bailing out Wall Street does not need to be paid for. But when American communities are struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, House Republicans discover a new standard: if Democrats want to help affected areas, the GOP has some demands that must be met.

And in case this story isn’t quite mind-numbing enough, also note that FEMA has been forced to temporarily suspend “some payments to rebuild roads, schools and other structures destroyed during spring tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Southern states and other recent natural disasters” in order to respond to Hurricane Irene.

That this is happening in the wealthiest nation in the world, simply because the Republican Party has been taken over by charlatans and fools, is a national disgrace.

For all of our differences over party, ideology, and creed, we know that when disaster strikes and our neighbors face a genuine emergency, America responds. We don’t ask what’s in it for us; we don’t weigh the political considerations; we don’t pause to ponder the larger ideological implications.

We act. It’s who we are; it’s what we do.

Or it was, right up until Americans elected a radicalized House majority.