Opinion Brief

Eric Cantor's 'callous' disaster-aid refusal

The House majority leader says any relief money should be offset by spending cuts. Is he right — or is it cruel to talk accounting as a storm crashes in?

As the East Coast braces for Hurricane Irene and Virginia shakes off a mild earthquake, one of the country's most powerful Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is vowing to prevent disaster relief money from reaching the states unless Democrats agree to budget cuts. Is this insensitive grandstanding, or is he just making sure the government doesn't spend money it doesn't have?

Cantor is putting politics ahead of victims: "Just as Republicans held the country hostage over the debt ceiling," says Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice, "Cantor is now trying to do the same over disaster relief." Hurricane Katrina taught us that the only way to save lives and relieve suffering is to get food, shelter, and help to victims immediately. Cantor either didn't learn that lesson, or he just "doesn't care." This is "political hostage-taking with lives and livelihoods in the balance."
"Hurricane Irene, Eric Cantor, and the Republican hostage-taking politics of disaster relief"

And he's done this before: Cantor is "callous," says Tanya Somanader at ThinkProgress, but at least he's consistent. "When Americans were struggling to recover from the deadly tornado that tore through the South in May, Cantor also demanded that any disaster relief be offset with cuts." Apparently his idea of limited government calls for public servants to "completely fail the public they serve."
"Cantor says no earthquake disaster relief for his home state unless spending is cut elsewhere"

Hold on. Cantor has a valid point: Bean-counting "in the midst of a disaster makes you look like a bit of a jerk," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But what Cantor's saying makes perfect sense. America is constantly being hit by one disaster or another, whether it's a string of tornadoes, an unexpected earthquake, or the inevitable "terrifying storm." We should budget in advance every dime of the relief we expect to need — because going "into debt every time there’s a natural disaster makes no sense whatsoever."
"Eric Cantor: No federal relief for earthquake or hurricane damage unless it's offset by spending cuts"

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