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August 25, 2011 10:40 AM Cantor’s callousness continues

By Steve Benen

An East-coast earthquake did some damage this week, and there’s a hurricane on the way, too. It stands to reason that the federal government will have to provide some disaster relief fairly soon.

Traditionally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. Congress has always provided emergency disaster funds pretty quickly, outside of budget caps and without trying to offset the costs elsewhere. Helping families and communities in a time of need has always mattered most.

That is, until this year. House Republicans have changed the standard.

We saw this earlier in the summer, following a devastating tornado hit to Joplin, Missouri. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he was willing to provide relief aid, just as soon as Democrats agreed to pay for it by cutting funding for a clean-energy program. His party agreed.

Now, Cantor is at it again.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he intends to look for offsets if federal aid is needed to help areas of his Virginia district that were damaged in an earthquake Tuesday.

“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” the Republican said after touring the damage in his district. “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”

The next step will be for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to decide whether to make an appeal for federal aid, Cantor said. The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget.

“All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” Cantor said in Culpeper, where the quake damaged some buildings along a busy shopping thoroughfare.

Presumably, Cantor will say the same thing after Hurricane Irene hits the coast.

Keep in mind, even Tom DeLay never went this far. We’ve just haven’t seen a majority-party caucus this extreme in modern history.

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. That’s just not how the United States is supposed to operate.

Until now.

I can’t help but wonder why Republicans don’t hesitate to finance wars without paying for them, bail out Wall Street without paying for it, and offer subsidies to oil companies without paying for them, but when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts.

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.

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  • DAY on August 25, 2011 10:44 AM:

    -an easy offset could be found in the billions the federal government has earmarked for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
    Agriculture, Transportation,HHW, DOD, Education- oh, there are great heaping PILES of cash that are headed that way. (And every other state, too!)

  • MobiusKlein on August 25, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Lots of folks out west don't have earthquake insurance either. It's just way too expensive, huge deductibles. Better off taking that money and retrofitting your house.

    When the Big One hits out here, it's going to be financial xplode too.

  • Eeyore on August 25, 2011 10:48 AM:

    Neighbors will bring casseroles to repair damaged buildings. No need for federal dollars.

  • martin on August 25, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Day beat me to it, but the Dems should have an itemized list of ALL federal money going to VA and a sublist of all going to Cantor's district and make sure the whole world sees it every day. Then just say to Cantor "Take your pick."

  • c u n d gulag on August 25, 2011 10:54 AM:

    "A terrible hurricane has caused tons of damage!

    F*CK the women, children, and old people FIRST!!!"

  • kindness on August 25, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Well, since this is Cantor's own home ground, I say we accept his proposal and not give Virgina anything as I will not accept paring the Federal budget anywhere for him.

    Thanks Cantor! You just saved America untold billions of dollars. Sure hope your constituents appreciate all the hard work you are doing for their behalf.

  • Josef K on August 25, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Amusing as the idea of offsetting this appropriation with monies going to Cantor's district (what the hell were they thinking electing him?!?), I have to ask: how likely is it the Democrats will pay this ransom?

  • Brenna on August 25, 2011 11:00 AM:

    We're seeing a new day in America. The young republicans now think they get to decide their vision for this country. A country where the rich rule and everyone else suffers. The suvival of the fittest, unless you're rich, then we'll give you subsidies, tax breaks, and bailouts.

    I think this plan will be soundly rejected. Let the young guns implode some more.

  • sue on August 25, 2011 11:03 AM:

    Bake sale at Cantor's house!

  • Kathryn on August 25, 2011 11:08 AM:

    The arrogance of this liar is breathtaking, call his bluff and freaken mean it! I'm with Day and Martin.

  • Ron Byers on August 25, 2011 11:12 AM:

    This is Cantor's district? If he can get away with this crap in his own district I guess for Eric Cantor all politics isn't local.

    Talk about a safe district. If the local congressman tried Cantor's stunt here he wouldn't be reelected in 2012.

  • steve duncan on August 25, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Boy, I guess we better hope a nuclear reactor doesn't blow somewhere near a major population/transportation/infrastructure/port center. The likely resulting damage could easily total in the hundreds of billions, if not exceeding a trillion. Would Cantor just ask for every Federal expediture to be canceled in that eventuality? Lock all the doors at every Federal office building in the nation, close all the parks, quit inspecting food and drugs, just cease all operations and clean up the disaster?

  • SadOldVet on August 25, 2011 11:16 AM:

    I can't help but wonder why Republicans don't hesitate to finance wars without paying for them, bailout Wall Street without paying it, and offer subsidies to oil companies without paying for them, but when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts.

    Get real Benen! Then stop wondering!

    Our militarism industry is a major provider of funds for politicians!

    Wall Street is a major provider of funds for our politicians!

    The oil industry is a major provider of funds for politicians!

    If the working people of Virginia became a major source of funding for Cantor, he would support them too!

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Steve -- It's not just some generic offsetting cut; Cantor withholds help until his preferred lamb gets sacrificed.

  • bleh on August 25, 2011 11:18 AM:

    I canít help but wonder why ... when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts.

    Because, don't you know, the right kind of people already have insurance for silly things like earthquakes and hurricanes. I mean, of course you do; it's a deductible expense from the don't you know.

    And really, if those other people didn't bother to instruct their financial managers to ensure that their accountants contacted their insurance people to get it all in place, well then, I guess that's their little problem, isn't it?

    Besides, beach houses are so much cheaper to replace these days, what with construction employment being down. Honestly, if you can deduct the loss fully, it might even be worth the write-off to rebuild! Isn't that delicious?

  • Rich on August 25, 2011 11:21 AM:

    If I were Harry Reid, I'd hold aid to his district hostage.

  • PTate in MN on August 25, 2011 11:27 AM:

    "I canít help but wonder why Republicans donít hesitate to finance wars without paying for them, bailout Wall Street without paying it, and offer subsidies to oil companies without paying for them, but when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts."

    Because the Republicans are the party of Wall Street, oil companies and Haliburton?

    The American people? The little people? Forget about them. Some of them are the social conservative suckers who vote Republican for fear of homosexuals and non-whites and the rest vote for Democrats. Why should Republicans have an obligation to do anything for them?

  • Mike on August 25, 2011 11:30 AM:

    Cantor is playing a game with Democrats so that he can support his political agenda. He's certain that Democrats will accept more cuts because they deem helping those affected if great importance. The way to end this is to call Cantor's bluff and don't accept his cuts. His constituents will rightly blame him for not helping them when they really needed help, and maybe rout him out of office in 2012.

  • LL on August 25, 2011 11:30 AM:

    but when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts.

    The problem for the GOP in general is that these are their politics: do whatever I have to do, say whatever I have to say, to get elected by my deranged base of voters. Doesn't matter if I believe any of it or not, all that matters is that I WIN, so that nice stream of endless perks and luxuries and money keeps on coming my way. so that I can keep living this really lovely life I have, and all I have to do is say ridiculous, cruel things, things so blisteringly stupid a 5-year-old would shun me out of sheer embarrassment, and all of this will be MINE.

    Additionally, the GOP has painted itself into a corner so far over to the right, that--as an institution--it has nowhere to go but further right.

    Finally, in specific, Eric Cantor is simply an unspeakable asshole who, in a just world, would tarred, feathered, and run out into the Atlantic in January.

  • boatboy_srq on August 25, 2011 11:38 AM:

    @SadOldVet:

    It's a real pity that voters - who after all are the source of VOTES for Cantor, without which he can't attain office - aren't worthy of support in their own right.

    Captcha nails it with "ethics emenses."

  • TCinLA on August 25, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Eric Cantor is a putz. Also a schmuck. In fact, he is the perfect example of what a professor of mine once said long ago: "Every ethnic slur has at least one example in the real world." Cantor certainly qualifies for being that guy. Slur away - he's all of them.

  • eserwe on August 25, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Cantor want to hold his own constituents hostage?

    Have a go at it, Eric!

  • m2 on August 25, 2011 11:53 AM:

    I really wanted to write a comment, but Sue cracked me up.

    Bake sale at Cantor's house!

  • Tuffy on August 25, 2011 12:10 PM:

    Cantor is going to get re-elected in 2012. So what if he is literally taking a steaming dump on the faces of his constituents? They are Republicans and they will send him back to DC and ask for more.

  • liam foote on August 25, 2011 12:20 PM:

    This is just the latest example of how far TP'er faction of a once noble GOP is willing to go. But I would think that holding his own constituents hostage might be an ill-advised step even for this suit.

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2011 12:22 PM:

    "I canít help but wonder why Republicans donít hesitate to finance wars without paying for them, bailout Wall Street without paying for it, and offer subsidies to oil companies without paying for them, but when an American community is struck by a natural disaster, all of a sudden, the GOP is inclined to hold the funds until the party gets offsetting cuts."

    Pretty obvious by now.....cynical, amoral, heartless fucks.

  • Bill on August 25, 2011 12:33 PM:

    ... The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget. ...

    Since the state of Virginia receives more in federal taxes than it sends to the federal government, why not reduce the amount Virginia gets by the same amount of federal assistance it receives for this earthquakes damages.

  • steve duncan on August 25, 2011 12:37 PM:

    "...I would think that holding his own constituents hostage might be an ill-advised step even for this suit."
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    A Republican can stand before a crowded room populated solely by people over the age of 65. He can loudly proclaim his fervent desire and unwavering intention to abolish Social Security, Medicare, the prescription drug plan, state aid to nursing homes, joint replacement/hearing aid/wheelchair/diabetes care assistance programs and gray hair AND RECEIVE A ROUSING, WILD, STANDING OVATION FOR SAYING IT! You think Cantor has underestimated the dull, ignorant knuckleheads that pass for the citizenry of his district? Please, no opinion, no matter how low, can truly express that level of stupidity. America is stupidity writ large.

  • kevo on August 25, 2011 12:39 PM:

    Hey Eric - I've got the perfect re-election slogan for you - short and sweet, and everyone will know exactly where you're coming from:

    Bah, Humbug!

    There, at least your opponent can't charge you with a lack of transparency! -Kevo

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2011 12:41 PM:

    ďObviously, the problem is that people in Virginia donít have earthquake insurance.Ē

    Maybe so, but methinks the bigger problem is that the rest of us don't have Tea-Bagger Nihilistic Nutjobs Insurance. I want to file a claim NOW!!!!!

    Captcha: Writest stubborn

  • Barbara on August 25, 2011 1:20 PM:

    I live in Virginia and as far as I am concerned if the price of aid is cuts somewhere else, forget it. Withhold the aid at Cantor's request and let Bob McDonnell figure out how to repair things. Mineral, VA is not a big town and dollars to donuts the real damage will come this weekend, when Virginia Beach gets lashed by a category 3 hurricane. All these coastal districts in Virginia and NC are reliably among the reddest in the states. They voted for this kind of idiocy, they might as well have to live with it for a change.

    Of course I would support aid, but not at someone else's expense.

  • boatboy_srq on August 25, 2011 1:40 PM:

    @Barbara:

    Your suggestion works better than you'd think, so long as the state itself is prepared. Anyone remember the hurricanes of '04? Charlie, Jeannie, Frances and Ivan flattened good portions of Florida - but FL kept the news to itself and did its own damage control. No FEMA, no scary headlines - just lots of damage that FL had to spend years and billions putting right. Arcadia, for example, was absolutely flattened, as were Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda,parts of Orlando and other cities (and in case you think the smaller towns are insignificant, Arcadia was evacuation point for much of the coast that got hit by Charlie and a lot of folks fled there thinking they'd be safe).

    The critical difference between that season and the next one (which included Katrina), in fact, is that FL spent years and billions getting prepared - years and (especially) billions Louisiana didn't have. Without that local preparedness, and the willingness to spend to rebuild, half of FL would have looked exactly like New Orleans. As it was, emergency trailers were a common sight on I-75 through Charlotte and Lee counties years after Charlie struck.

    Somehow, though, I doubt Virginia is up to the task. Not because the wealth isn't there: VA is still pretty well-off. But the will to fund first-responders and other public services has waned over the last decade or so, and the preparedness will likely suffer substantially.

    If, as you say, the coasts are TP havens, it might as you say do them some good to see what their public-sector parsimony brings them. Then again, you'd have thought the same of Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Hendry, Glades, DeSoto, and other FL counties devastated by the '04 and '05 storms (hasn't happened as far as I can tell).

    ... and Captcha says "there namean."

  • bardgal on August 25, 2011 3:45 PM:

    HAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

    Federal aid for a 5.8 EQ!!!

    Cantor had some wine glasses break because he didn't have an earthquake lock on the cabinet.

    boo fucking hoo.

  • busbus on August 25, 2011 7:13 PM:

    If I recall correctly, during the summer of the health care debates, Mr. Cantor said that people without insurance should depend on charity. Therefore, the same can be applied to the people in his state. If he thinks that charity is good for one group, then, it's equally good for another!

  • Tea Partied out in VA on August 25, 2011 9:55 PM:

    I've from the left-leaning part of VA and I have to agree with the conclusion that any disaster aid to Virginia ought to be subtracted from Federal $$$ sent to Virginia. It will take that and more for the owners of the high-priced beach houses who are always screaming for expensive, tax-payer funded sand replenishment projects after every hurricane to get their collective heads out of the Tea Party asses. Hopefully the TP middle class & poor also get a clue when Cantor can't and won't deliver Federal aid $$$ to recover from the combined earthquake and hurricane whammy.

    As for Cantor saying ďObviously, the problem is that people in Virginia donít have earthquake insurance.Ē he is a completely callous, ignorant ass. Virginia has not had an earthquake like that since 1895 so why indeed would any average person even think to spend their very limited disposable income to insure against the low possibility that something that has not happened in living memory (115 years) might suddenly happen. Most people here don't even have flood insurance because it is prohibitively expensive and we flood ALL the time here near the coast.

  • Scott on August 26, 2011 7:40 AM:

    Perhaps, when VA is sufficiently damaged, and Cantor attempts to withhold federal funding, Virginians will get wise to his bizarre agenda.

    But don't hold your breath. I suspect it will take far more than financial despair or a natural disaster for Republicans to enter a no-spin/no-Cantor zone.

  • mommadona on August 26, 2011 7:49 PM:

    Fact that the libertarian GOP moochers never want to confront in reality: WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT ~ WE ~ the PEOPLE ~ that 'security force' is ur husband or wife or brother or daughter. E PLURIBUS UNUM is our motto.

    Just because a bunch of zealots geared to armageddon or the Treasure of Sierra Madre WANTS to destroy this country, doesn't mean they can.

    Tiptoeing about these creeps wrapped in OUR flag and humping that bible is the utter downfall of mainstream media.

    Time to call them out for who they are. Quack Test: If it WALKS like an authoritarian male and TALKS like an authoritarian male ~ U GOT ONE.

    Authoritarians HATE community ~ they can't control it. It scares them. "What if....."

    WE do not live in Pleasantville.

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