We talked earlier about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) insisting that federal disaster relief in the wake of this week’s earthquake would no longer be automatic. Whereas Congress used to provide emergency funds after a disaster, without regard for budget caps of offsets, Republicans no longer believe in such an approach.
I said it was likely Cantor would take a similar approach with Hurricane Irene. This afternoon, the Majority Leader’s spokesperson confirmed this with Brian Beutler — if the hurricane does major damage, Republicans will only allow federal assistance if Democrats accept comparable cuts elsewhere in the budget.
“We aren’t going to speculate on damage before it happens, period,” his spokesperson Laena Fallon emails. “But, as you know, Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts.”
This isn’t just to lay a honeytrap for Cantor. Human toll aside, hurricane damage can be very expensive, and if against all hope Irene hits hard, this sort of parameter could put a severe dent in federal programs that are already stretched quite thin.
A while back, during a different debate, John Cole noted, “If these guys were comic book villains, no one would buy it because it’s just too over the top.” It’s a sentiment that comes to mind all the time.
Tom DeLay never went this far. No one has ever gone this far. U.S. officials have always put everything else aside when families and communities are hit and need a hand, but now, thanks to the new House Republican majority, those principles have been cast aside.
There’s also a 2012 angle to this, by the way. Mitt Romney in June agreed with the callous right-wing line, saying, “We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.”
In context, “those things” referred to aiding American communities ravaged by a natural disaster.
We can obviously hope for the best when it comes to Hurricane Irene, but at this point, Republicans are apparently intent on literally adding insult to injury.