Political Animal


August 29, 2011 2:00 PM Cantor: no emergency disaster relief without cuts

By Steve Benen

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.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Mark-NC on August 29, 2011 2:03 PM:

    Cantor is doing this - for Jesus - of course!

  • martin on August 29, 2011 2:07 PM:

    He can't even get his family analogy right. He compares new clothes to putting as addition on to the house or buying a car, something most families would borrow to do.

  • Rick Massimo on August 29, 2011 2:08 PM:

    I think it's excellent, and very brave, of Cantor to tell Halliburton that they're just gonna have to wait for their next multi-billion-dollar check because American are reeling from a disaster and frankly dammit, they're just more important.

    Oh. That's not what he's really saying, is it?

  • Ron Byers on August 29, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Once upon a time a politician would be punished for this kind of shit. No more. Now they are looked upon as being perfectly rational.

    OK let's be perfectly rational. Since God smote Virginia Beach, lets stop sending Medicare payments to physicians in Virginian Beach. Since North Carolina was hit hard, lets close a North Carolina military base or two.

  • rikyrah on August 29, 2011 2:12 PM:

    lowndown, no-good mofos.

    plain and simple

  • Woodrow L. Goode, IV on August 29, 2011 2:13 PM:

    If we had any president other than St. Barry The Bipartisan, this would take 72 hours or less to resolve. The president would climb into the bully pulpit and start screaming about this, pointing the finger squarely where it belongs.

    When enraged mobs began calling their wingnuts reps to scream about their house being destroyed, the wingnuts would fold.

    This is how the U.S. government was designed to work. But if you grab your ankles and mumble things about "politics in Washington", then it will probably hold. I'm sure you, Booman and Matt Yglesias can construct some elaborate rationalization (involving Ben Nelson's toupee) for why Obama can't just hang a lantern on this, but to the rest of us, it's just another failure of leadership from this century's answer to Adlai Stevenson.

  • kindness on August 29, 2011 2:14 PM:

    French Revolution his slimy ass.

  • Chris on August 29, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Cantor, again, compares the government to families. Well, many families put money into an emergency fund so they're financially prepared if and when the unexpected happens. Is it too much to ask for Congress to do the same?

  • Anonymous on August 29, 2011 2:19 PM:

    @ Ron B

    "Once upon a time a politician would be punished for this kind of shit. No more. Now they are looked upon as being perfectly rational."

    Where are the National Democrats pounding Cantor repeatedly over this nonsense? This is the reason why Republicans get away with this. What is up with the National Dems? Why are they not running commercials in all of the regions that were hammered over the past few years?

  • kindness on August 29, 2011 2:21 PM:

    Oh and Woodrow Goode? You spent an entire post crapping on President Obama even though he hasn't done anything wrong in this instance as of yet.

    Put a sock in it. Maybe if you did something about those that, you know, actually cause the mayhem it might be better.

  • Brenna on August 29, 2011 2:22 PM:

    The screaming and complaining of democrats falls on deaf ears. It's gonna take someone like Jon Stewart to do a show that shames the slimy black-hearted thugs. Just like he did with the 9-11 funding.

  • pacato on August 29, 2011 2:24 PM:

    I think we should cancel every federal contract in the 7th congressional district of Virginia, which should make Mr. Cantor happy.

  • impik on August 29, 2011 2:28 PM:

    And yet. the stupid Americas will vote for this son of a bitch and his friends again and again and again.

  • kevo on August 29, 2011 2:30 PM:

    Shit, what part of We the People does Cantor and his ilk not understand?

    Our government should be there in our times of disaster relief, and if the Republicans think not, they need to be punished at the polls in the next election cycle!

    To obfuscate macroeconomics by using an analogy of a family for any duly elected official is to commit political malpractice for all the wrong reasons!

    Cantor needs to be kicked to the curb! -Kevo

  • dricey on August 29, 2011 2:32 PM:

    [Trolling deleted]

  • Conservative1 on August 29, 2011 2:34 PM:

    Steve, you're seriously misrepresenting Cantor's position when you say, "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." Cantor DOES, however, believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, tax cuts for the wealthy, and bailing out Wall Street ALL have to be paid for. Cantor's point is that the middle- and working-classes have to pay for them through cuts in programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

  • Anonymous on August 29, 2011 2:42 PM:

    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.

    Fuck that. Eric Cantor and his cohort are bad people. They've got all the morals of playground bullies and abusive spouses. They want everyone to play by their rules, but those rules always, ALWAYS favor them. If they don't like being called bad people, maybe they should stop acting like bad people.

  • SYSPROG on August 29, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Cantor is a horrible person. I don't want ONE MORE PERSON to say 'he is sticking to his principles'...that man is morally bankrupt. Don't miss THIS one if you think he as even a shred of human decency.

  • ShadeTail on August 29, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Woodrow: Face reality, for a change. Democrats are ignored by the media unless they're blue dogs parroting the GOP line. If you were capable of actually thinking instead of blindly blaming Obama for everything, maybe you would be aware of that.

    dricey: The president can only spend money that has already been approved by the House. Ever hear of something called "the power of the purse"? Look it up rather than just reflexively pretending it's all Obama's fault.

  • Redshift on August 29, 2011 2:44 PM:

    Conservative1 -- Sorry, you're wrong. No one is disputing that disaster relief will have to be paid for eventually, by replenishing disaster-relief funds through future budgets and tax revenues. What Cantor is saying is that it must be paid for through cuts to other programs right now, which he emphatically didn't say when he voted to fund the wars, tax cuts, and Wall Street bailouts.

    Being "fiscally conservative" has nothing to do with it, because he didn't give a rat's ass about that when there was a Republican president. It's extremely clear here that because a Democrat is in power, his highest objective, above having a functioning government serving the people of this country, is to force cuts in anything Democrats might want to do.

  • troglodyte on August 29, 2011 2:44 PM:

    Notice that Boehner is nowhere to be found. What does that tell us? That Cantor has deposed him, or that Cantor is going rogue? There is a finite chance that Boehner is letting Cantor do this in order to give him enough rope to hang himself.

  • Dredd on August 29, 2011 2:49 PM:

    Surviving natural disasters is not a matter of politics, nor is repair after survival of a natural disaster.

    The source of Cantor's talking points is the Marshall Institute, which has a questionable moral foundation.

  • NY Expat on August 29, 2011 2:51 PM:

    When the GOP held the debt ceiling hostage in order to extract unrelated cuts, it was big news in Washington and among political geeks. The problem was and will remain that most Americans don't know or understand the idea of a debt ceiling, or the consequences of failing to raise it.

    Hurricanes and earthquakes are a different matter, though, aren't they? These are things that people understand, especially those who have been harmed this last week. And they understand perfectly what happens when the Government fails to help until another debate about deficit spending can be had and resolved. Their neighbors suffer, and they may realize that they could be the victim next time.

    As for Eric Cantor, he officially resigned from the human race last week when he first took this position concerning the Mineral VA earthquake (in his own district, no less). If I were "Eric" (as his spokesman annoyingly refers to him), I'd start worrying more about reelection in 2012.

  • Jjm on August 29, 2011 2:53 PM:

    You'd think someone who loved him might give him a nudge and tell him that he looks like an ass.

    But then, maybe nobody but a corporate-person loves him.

    But every time you think he might be the least bit embarrassed by his ludicrous policy positions, he Rick Perrys us and goes himself one better.

  • sue on August 29, 2011 2:59 PM:

    If Virginia needs $1 billion in emergency funding, Eric should propose $1 billion in cuts that his state would be getting for something else. THAT would be fair.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 29, 2011 3:04 PM:

    Democrats ought to be making political hay out of this. Will they be in full cry? I'm guessing there might be a whimper. If anybody wonders why Republicans get away with being complete obnoxious assholes, one reason is there's no pushback from their supposed political rivals.

  • FriscoSF on August 29, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Will Obama agree ?
    I suspect that Obama will on this this
    Sad and Pathetic

    Hope and Change ??

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 29, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Democrats ought to be making political hay out of this. Will they be in full cry? I'm guessing there might be a whimper. If anybody wonders why Republicans get away with being complete obnoxious assholes, one reason is there's no pushback from their supposed political rivals.

  • bigtuna on August 29, 2011 3:08 PM:

    What is with these guys? I heard an interview with Jason Chaffetz last week [he of the thinking of challenging Orrin Hatch fame], and paul Ryan, etc. They all have this smarmy "we know better, our way is the way" air about them. They have reprehensible policies, AND they are pure unadulterated pricks.

    For a dem to get some air time, here is the complete, simple message. Find one of the safest dems in the country, and have them simply say:

    "Eric Cantor's proposal is utter bullshit. In the US, the federal government has a clear and important roll to play in the case of natural disasters that impact thousands to millions of people. "

    Pure, simple, and clear.

  • jhm on August 29, 2011 3:22 PM:

    What troglodyte said. Also, is Hon. Rep. Cantor speaking as majority leader here? I mean are the rank and file members banging a drum about this or is he trying to lead from the front?

  • dsimon on August 29, 2011 3:25 PM:

    Cantor could pay for disaster relief by supporting the closing of the "carried interest" loophole for limited partnerships, such as hedge funds...oh, wait, that would increasing a wealthy person's taxes. We can't have an iota of that, now.

  • Cha on August 29, 2011 3:26 PM:

    @Woodrow...You can't even get his name right..much less know anything else about him. It's President Barack Hussein Obama.

    If so many hadn't stayed home on election day in 2010 we wouldn't be having to hear from the greedy asshole, Eric Cantor. No, they'd rather sit around and Whine about President Obama on the internet.

    Prime Example.

  • Cha on August 29, 2011 3:32 PM:

    @Conservative..No, Steve is NOT misrepresenting anything..your ignorance is glaring. Eric Cantor didn't give a shit about paying for anything..Starting a war in Afghanistan then abandoning that for Bombing the shit out of Iraq, and the Medicare Part D Drug Program Without paying for it when Bush was in office. Oh yeah, and Raising the Debt Ceiling 7 times.

    Eric Cantor is a craven asshole holding the victims hostage.

  • Varecia on August 29, 2011 3:40 PM:

    I hate to say it, but I think this is going to have to play out to the logical extension of Cantor's ultimatum before Americans break through their mesmerisation and take to the streets against these thugs as they should have months ago. People learn much better by directly experiencing the school of hard knocks than they do by being given info, facts, figures. Let's see how much pain the American people suck up on this before something breaks.

  • Bartender on August 29, 2011 3:46 PM:

    I think the Democrats ought to borrow a page from the Reagen playbook and "Just Say No" to Canter and watch 'em squirm.

  • Tom Dibble on August 29, 2011 3:52 PM:

    It is common sense that disaster relief has to be paid for. And we should account for this year's disaster relief ... in next year's budget.

    Disaster relief is an immediate, pressing need. Delay and it just gets more expensive - in both what you can pay for and what you have irreplaceably lost. Spending cuts need to be thoroughly researched and considered. As do tax increases. That is what the budgeting process is for.

    If you need to think of things in terms of what families do, consider a man who just lost his job. He's a relatively skilled man, so shouldn't have too much trouble finding a new job, although in this economy all bets are off there. Does he go home that night and say, "Sorry, kids, I lost my job. Until I find a new one, we don't eat. Since I'm not bringing any money home today, we can't send any money out for food." A week later the whole family has starved to death, but they haven't gone into debt!

    No, of course not. Instead, he says "We need to find ways to cut back. At the same time, I need to draft up some resumes and that will cost us a bit. I also need to visit some potential employers, which means I'll need to put gas in the car. I also need to make myself presentable, which means a new suit." Then he goes and assesses their savings (none) and hits up relatives and acquaintances for assistance and perhaps even the bank for a loan (good luck on that one though!)

    The point is: it is just plain stupid to throw away the future for nothing more than to make an ideological stand in the present. Grow up, Cantor!

  • steve duncan on August 29, 2011 4:00 PM:

    "....Americans elected a radicalized House majority."

    Enough said. Bed made. Lie down.

  • Tony D. on August 29, 2011 4:21 PM:

    @Steve Duncan,
    Not really. You can always get out of bed if the linen turns out to be awful. You can always get rid of a used car and go after the asshole salesman who sold it to you. Many an American were duped by the GOP last November. Many an American are now waking up and getting out of bed to go after the assholes that are the GOP.

  • Eli Rabett on August 29, 2011 4:37 PM:

    Not one penny for VA, and if Obama provides any he is a fool.

  • JMG on August 29, 2011 4:58 PM:

    Spend any money necessary without Congressional authorization and dare them to impeach. Not that Obama would every do that, but he should.

  • mcc on August 29, 2011 5:11 PM:

  • ShadeTail on August 29, 2011 5:15 PM:


    The Obama Derangement Syndrome on display from some of the commenters here is obnoxious. All that matters to them is blaming Obama if the correct thing doesn't get done. They don't care what Obama is legally able to do.

    These numbskulls are as bad as the teabaggers.

  • ShadeTail on August 29, 2011 5:19 PM:

    JMG: Read the Constitution some time. Obama literally *does not have the money to spend* until the House approves it. That's what "the power of the purse" is. Look it up some time.

    Making snide comments about how Obama should do something that he literally can not do doesn't help.

  • Ray Waldren on August 29, 2011 5:21 PM:


    Since passage of H.Res. 72 on February 11, our committee chairmen have been investigating and inventorying regulatory burdens to job creators. They've found many that have tied the hands of small business people and prevented job growth. By pursuing a steady repeal of job-destroying regulations, we can help lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over small and large employers alike, empowering them to hire more workers.

    Our regulatory relief agenda will include repeal of specific regulations, as well as fundamental and structural reform of the rule-making system through legislation like the REINS Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, and reform of the Administrative Procedures Act (all three bills are expected on the floor in late November and early December).

    The following is a list of the 10 most harmful job-destroying regulations that our committee chairmen have identified, as well as a selective calendar for their repeal. These regulations are reflective of the types of costly bureaucratic handcuffs that Washington has imposed upon business people who want to create jobs.

    If the Republicans in Congress don't start assisting in repairs to the infrastructure with disaster relief, people are going to have serious problems getting to jobs among other problems.

  • Steve on August 29, 2011 6:35 PM:

    Eric Cantor would have turned in Anne Frank.

  • beep52 on August 29, 2011 6:39 PM:

    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. -- Benen

    I don't think precedence works as an argument. I mean, just because we've always done something one way doesn't mean that's a reason to keep doing it that way.

    Fortunately, Cantor fails on plenty of other grounds.

  • Doug on August 29, 2011 7:18 PM:

    How many of Fox viewers are there in Virginia? How many of those viewers suffered damage from Irene? How many will require assistance? How many cities, towns and villages in VA are going to need help with cleaning up and rebuilding?
    Let Cantor say no. He may very well win his 2012 primary, but that doesn't mean he'll win the general election.

  • Anonymous on August 29, 2011 7:42 PM:

    Ouch! On that one Steve @ 6:35 PM!

  • John on August 29, 2011 8:12 PM:

    Cantor's a miserable bastard who isn't worth the DNA he's made out of, so self-absorbed and cruel he makes Tom DeLay look like Mister Rogers. I only hope the people in Virginia that have been affected by the storm remember his wretched, morally bankrupt position regarding their plight come election time.

  • Xolodnyj on August 29, 2011 8:25 PM:

    Is this guy a joke? Seriously is there isn't anything that he won't stoop to? When it comes to responding to Natural Disasters, ESPECIALLY in this country, there is suppose to be a unified front from the government no matter what your political affiliation is. The budget has been discussed and decided on already. Jesus Christ! This guy is a broken record, Virginians this guy is going to play politics with the disaster you just went through, your rep. Time to fire this clown!

  • Jimo on August 29, 2011 10:52 PM:

    And a President with any backbone would already be announcing that

    A) He will veto any bill that removes funding from elsewhere in the budget to "pay for" disaster relief, and

    B) If the GOP wishes to "pay for" disaster relief, it will be by a surtax on the wealthy.

    But, of course, despite the public begging the President to stand up to the GOP, that won't happen.

  • Sander on August 30, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Ok fine. Any monies spent in Virginia need to come out of monies given to Virginia from the Federal Government or by raising taxes in Virginia. Since I live in a state where the hurrican did not hit, I don't believe that I should have to pay for anything in Virginia. After all, isn't that a form of entitlement? So Eric (I hate America) Cantor can tell the residents of Virginia that they will have to pay for any and all disaster relief that was spent due to the hurricane.
    Sound fair? Yeah, I think so too.
    Ok, sarcasm is now turned off.
    What an idiot.

  • annafiglia on August 30, 2011 1:54 PM:

    Maybe we should ask Ron Paul about how disaster relief will be handled when "he's president."

  • groobiecat on August 30, 2011 2:41 PM:

    I used to work for FEMA back in the early 90s, and disaster relief was the one thing that both sides agreed should be sacrosanct from budgetary politics (prolly because every district and state would need it at some point). Today? The "new right" believes everything should be subject to the cutting machine. So, *screw* people who happen to be in the way of Mother Nature. I live in Southern Vermont, and lemme tell you, it's not a lot of fun to be on the CNN newsreel. My family/home are okay, but so many people in Vermont aren't. Ugh. What a shameful view of need and help the right has adopted.

    WWJTOTSOTR (what would jesus think of the sh!theads on the right) Is nothing decent and sacred when people are in need? I just hope his constituents in Ohio never need Federal aid.


  • Archie1954 on August 30, 2011 5:11 PM:

    Cantor is a Virginian, he was voted in by the electorate of that state. As far as I'm concerned the people that elected him can bear the brunt of his demented ideology and suffer alone with no federal disaster funds flowing to that venue. They made a very foolish choice based on their own egregious ideas of what government is all about and now they must bear the consequences of their own stupid choices.I would wish them good luck but I don't think they deserve it.

  • Dwight Bobson on August 30, 2011 5:32 PM:

    It's time for Rep. Eric Hypocrisy to live his lie. Virginia elected him and they have a budget surplus. They have storm damage. Let them pay for it. In fact, if any republican governor comes to the feds for aid, simply tell them "no" since they do not believe in government and especially not asking it for funds to do anything. Let's see how long these clowns stay in office once their electorate realizes what scourges they put in office to represent them.

  • Carole Borges on August 30, 2011 10:39 PM:

  • graciebeaux on August 31, 2011 12:03 PM:

    Cantor is the only Jewish Republican currently serving in Congress. Not Jews for Jesus. Cantor was raised in Conservative Judaism. Hell knows what he is now, but it is definitely something that is lacking capacity for empathy and compassion.

  • Marcie Harris on August 31, 2011 1:30 PM:

    Folks, get on the phone and call your congressmen and senators and the white house. When a blizzard of phone calls hits their lines, there is a response! It is all good to vent on these blogs about Cantor and the disaster relief issue but real action requires phone calls and letters to the right people!!!! I just made 3 phone calls..ten minutes it took...get to it!!!!

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    If you are in the corner and have got no money to move out from that, you would have to receive the personal loans. Because that will help you definitely. I get short term loan every time I need and feel myself good just because of that.

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