It is too early to say exactly how much Hurricane Irene relief efforts will cost, but the bill is expected to run in the billions. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Congress will provide for those in need, but that the aid money will have to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. That's setting up a fight on Capitol Hill, with Democrats charging that holding up relief for disaster victims is "unconscionable." Are House Republicans being "cold-hearted," or just fiscally responsible?
Republicans are acting like grown-ups: It's good that the GOP is reminding us "there's no such thing as free disaster relief," says Roger Pilon at Politico. Democrats say this is not the way we have handled emergency management in the past, and they're right. "That's why we're in our deficits and debt mess." So do we "give up something, or incur more debt? Take your choice, but choose you must."
"Should disaster aid be conditional?"
But the GOP only believes in cutting Democrats' programs: This isn't "fiscal discipline," it's a callous display of hypocrisy, says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. Cantor and his GOP colleagues didn't demand offsets when they voted for the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq war. They're just exploiting the emergency "to attack programs they would be happy to eliminate anyway."
"Eric Cantor's budget hypocrisy"
This is why we should budget for disasters in advance: The federal government's policy has always been to "open its checkbook" whenever disaster strikes, says the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. But these calamities are as regular as clockwork. A hurricane, an earthquake, a flood, a tornado — it's always something. And it's high time Washington took a more realistic approach to budgeting for relief efforts in advance "instead of routinely underfunding the Federal Emergency Management Agency and counting on Congress to step into the breach with extra dollars whenever they're needed."
"How to pay for disasters"