Political Animal


August 25, 2011 1:30 PM Cantor’s callousness turns preemptive

By Steve Benen

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.

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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  • Burr Deming on August 25, 2011 1:38 PM:

    It's a matter of degree.

    If some conservatives see deaths and damage from natural disasters as a punishment from God, we can expect that other conservatives might see using such disasters as bargaining chips as a more moderate position.

  • bob h on August 25, 2011 1:42 PM:

    I don't know whether Cantor's constituents are in the line of fire of the hurricane, but some of them must be coming to the conclusion that the man is a cretin.

  • SYSPROG on August 25, 2011 1:43 PM:

    I hate these guys. I REALLY hate these guys. Their sanctimonious whining about their 'children' makes me want to puke. You entitled little dweebs. YOU grew up with all the good things the US had to offer but you will take them away from everyone else. You want to WORRY about your children and grandchildren? Tell them to NEVER vote Republican.

  • just bill on August 25, 2011 1:43 PM:

    keep it up eric! you may single-handedly get people so pissed off you'll finish off the republican party in no time. i mean everybody needs disaster assistance at one time or another.


  • c u n d gulag on August 25, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Erik Cantor as Captain of the Titanic:

    "Women and children first!"

    'Aye, aye, Sir! Captain's orders, mates - lower the lifeboats for the women and children!'

    Who said anything about lifeboats? I meant to literally throw the women and children overboard into the water. This way, we can save the lifeboats for the "Job Creaters" and their families in First Class!"

  • ElegantFowl on August 25, 2011 1:49 PM:

    The problem for Republicans is that disaster-recovery can actually improve economic growth, by forcing loans and spending (both private and public) that would otherwise be moribund. Given that Reps have committed to economic sabotage as their 2012 electoral strategy, they may have no alternative but to subvert FEMA.

  • Eeyore on August 25, 2011 1:51 PM:

    Hard to bake a casserole for your neighbors in need when ya ain't got no power.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on August 25, 2011 1:52 PM:

    That must be some amazing fucking bubble he lives in . The disconnect from common sense defies logic . In what alt universe is that idea a player ...oh wait let me turn on Faux Nooze

  • DAY on August 25, 2011 1:52 PM:

    All this ire is wonderful, but i have a practical question:

    WHO decides WHAT to CUT?

  • James Laing on August 25, 2011 1:53 PM:

    I wonder what Cantor will say when the Hurricane hits Virginia really hard.

  • JMG on August 25, 2011 1:55 PM:

    Obama should but won't simply spend any money on disaster relief necessary without authorization from the House as a matter of national security and defy them to impeach him. Too bad he's such a coward, because that's a can't lose political position.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on August 25, 2011 1:55 PM:

    It's really astonishing to see the hubris that's come from one moderately successful mid-term election.* Apparently they've decided that polls be damned, wrecking the economy and blaming it on the President is a sure winner, so they can be as offensive as they want without cost.

    *Yes, there are internal dynamics at play too, specifically the capitulation to the extremist crowd, but that strategy has only looked viable for the GOP establishment because of the 2010 win.

  • Danp on August 25, 2011 2:01 PM:

    Somewhere, Trent Lott is crying.

  • sue on August 25, 2011 2:02 PM:

    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.”

    Here's the part Romney left out: "And if tomorrow, our kids need to live in a car because their house washed away, so be it."

  • J on August 25, 2011 2:04 PM:

    That stupid Cantor, I was watching him on TV inspecting the damage in VA and he told the people there that Washington would help them!

  • Tigershark on August 25, 2011 2:06 PM:

    I accept Cantor's challenge!

    In order to pay for damages we will close every single Federal facility in his district.

  • Michael Carpet on August 25, 2011 2:08 PM:

    Of course, Virginia receives $1.50 of federal spending for every $1.00 paid in federal taxes, so they are already on the gravy train. If there is hurricane damage, they can go there.

  • stormskies on August 25, 2011 2:09 PM:

    And let's include taking Cantor's federal paycheck away from him ....... and his federal health insurance .. and his federal pension plan ........

  • Kane on August 25, 2011 2:09 PM:

    This is where the denial of climate change pays off for republicans. Every natural disaster is simply another reason to cut and dismantle the government.

  • Johnny Canuck on August 25, 2011 2:10 PM:

    James Laing on August 25, 2011 1:53 PM:

    I wonder what Cantor will say when the Hurricane hits Virginia really hard.

    That it is outrageous that Obama is not willing to repeal the ACA so that the necessary funds can be spent on hurricane relief in Virginia.

  • blondie on August 25, 2011 2:11 PM:

    Not to punish Cantor's constituents any more than they're already facing, but ... GOOD!

    They voted him into office. They presumably support his hard-line positions to one degree or another. They also probably never thought THEY would need federal help.

    Let it take months for them to get disaster relief/assistance. He comes up for reelection in 2012 - maybe they'll make more informed choices in the voting booth.

  • Josef K on August 25, 2011 2:16 PM:

    It must be very liberating for Cantor to be a demonstrable sociopath, being amidst other demonstrable sociopaths.

    How did this idjidt get elected, anyway? Mass bribery, or mass voter fraud?

  • Kane on August 25, 2011 2:18 PM:

    More republican hostage strategy:

    Give us our cuts, or we'll bring the economy to its knees.
    Give us our cuts, or we'll make the victims of natual disaster suffer.
    Give us our cuts, or we'll oppose any legislation to creat jobs.

  • T-Rex on August 25, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Sigh, whod'a thunk I'd ever miss Ted Stevens? He was always SOOOO happy to vote for disaster relief as long as he could attach a lot of pork for Alaska.

  • mellowjohn on August 25, 2011 2:30 PM:

    per josef k's comment: i've always wondered if sociopaths are self-aware enough to know that they're sociopaths.

  • Allyn on August 25, 2011 2:32 PM:

    The more I read about this, the more convinced I am that Eric Cantor is actually an escaped replicant from the Tyrell Corporation. Like a replicant, Cantor lacks compassion and empathy. I strongly doubt he would pass a Voight-Kampff Test.

  • Shaw Kenawe on August 25, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Paging Eric Cantor! France is calling. She wants her Inspector Javert back.

  • buddy66 on August 25, 2011 3:02 PM:

    I gotta believe cartoonist-satirist Al Capp is still alive and writing their stuff for them.

  • Larry Reilly on August 25, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Memo to Obama:
    Compile a list of members of Congress who agree with Cantor. Withhold all federal monies going to their districts, except for salaried federal workers, Medicare and Social Security, for as long as it takes to cover emergency spending for hurricane disaster recovery.

  • Redshift on August 25, 2011 3:26 PM:

    “We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.”

    This comment from Romney makes perfect sense if you remember that he thinks corporations are people, so by "kids," he means subsidiaries.

  • Varecia on August 25, 2011 3:41 PM:

    Hmmm. So in order to fund disaster assistance in VA the cost is taken from a prior commitment elsewhere in the budget? Hmmm. If he wants to take it from oil company subsidies or the Bush tax cuts, I'm all for it. Consider them an open fund for all kinds of more important and pressing needs.

  • nk007 on August 25, 2011 3:58 PM:


    You are really amazing! Everything is Obama's fault! I bet you would be clapping to see him impeached and the country paralyzed! That way you can feel that you are so macho. By the way with all your courage when are you running for President?

  • Barfbara on August 25, 2011 4:00 PM:

    The rare east coast earthquake was centered in Cantors' district. It would only be fair if hurricane Irene would follow-up, right smack on Cantor's doorstep.

    Mother Nature is trying to tell you something Rep. Cantor, perhaps you should listen.

  • sparky on August 25, 2011 4:07 PM:

    I would never anything bad on a fellow American, but if that hurricane is going to wreak havoc on any portion of this country I hope it makes a beeline for Eric Cantor's home district. The man has no concept of what this country is all about; at least what it's supposed to be all about.

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2011 5:11 PM:

    Many people with various forms of autism are unable to feel empathy or imagine being in someone else's position. I'm starting to think Republicanism is a form of autism. Recent studies have been reported showing that conservatives don't have as highly developed brains as liberals do. The underdeveloped areas include the site where empathy is formed. So, it isn't just a "world view"; it's a biological misconstruction.

    captcha: ferral 203. Yup, they're feral, all right.

  • Anonymous on August 25, 2011 5:21 PM:

    From now on all hurricanes should be called "Eric". Eric I, Eric II and so on. Make it a dirty word (sorry to all of the "good Erics" out there). Eric wrecked your community. Eric washed away your home. Eric left you without electricity for a week. And so on.

    Just a thought.

  • VaDem on August 25, 2011 10:04 PM:

    Let's refrain from wishing natural disasters on anyone, shall we? That's a Repub thing to do, and after living through two hurricanes, I can tell you the damage and suffering is terrible. Also, remember that, regardless of who voted or did not vote for this jerk, these are real people - including children - who will suffer. Wishing danger and disaster on them is just plain shitty.

  • alix on August 26, 2011 12:04 AM:

    It kind of makes you wonder-- what do they think the government is for? I mean, even if you put the bar for the purpose of government really low, you generally still see a role for government in disaster relief.

    Cantor's district is in the path of the hurricane. Maybe he'll change his mind when his own constituents want relief?

  • latim on August 26, 2011 12:40 AM:

    Steve, I am wondering if anyone has done any poling on what folks back in Eric Cantor's district think about the Fed not helping earthquake victims until someone else gives up foodstamps or healthcare or safe food...etc...

    Just to paraphrase another post from Cantor's point of view after all if just pay out to help people from earthquake damage it just encourages more quakes!!!

  • paul descartes on August 27, 2011 3:04 PM:

    "SYSPROG on August 25, 2011 1:43 PM:

    I hate these guys. I REALLY hate these guys. Their sanctimonious whining about their 'children' makes me want to puke. You entitled little dweebs. YOU grew up with all the good things the US had to offer but you will take them away from everyone else. You want to WORRY about your children and grandchildren? Tell them to NEVER vote Republican."

    That's funny. Progressives and liberals embody spoiled, entitled little dweebs. How many freaking social welfare programs have been sold to the public on the idea of "it takes a village"; or 'it's for the children'? So, uh, yeah...Your point is moot.

    Every voter is best served by not towing EITHER party's line. You know why? Because they're practically the same entity. We HAVE TO cut spending. Yes, this means cutting EVERYTHING. We don't have the luxury of past generations.

  • Michael on August 27, 2011 3:57 PM:

  • Danny Adams on August 28, 2011 7:08 PM:

    Cantor doesn't seem to realize that a big groundswell of support for him in the last election came from eastern Virginia, which is heavy with a Federal naval presence--and which has now suffered pretty heavy damage from Irene. If he manages to block Federal disaster relief now or in future disasters, I can guarantee him that eastern Virginia will not forget that. Heck, they might not forget this grandstanding whether or not Federal help is forthcoming.

  • tedbohne on August 28, 2011 7:42 PM:

    the republicans have assured there will be no "future" for our kids. these people and those that support them are the enemy. stupidity cannot be fixed, but it can be killed

  • shirley a mitchem on August 29, 2011 12:55 AM:

    Today's Republicans, Religious Conservatives, Tea Party!
    Jan 2009!
    "Our most important goal we want to achieve is to make Obama, a one term president"...."We're the party of NO"