Political Animal


August 27, 2011 9:35 AM ‘It is sinful’

By Steve Benen

Hurricane Irene made landfall this morning, hitting North Carolina with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Irene was downgraded overnight to a Category 1 hurricane, but it remains a powerful storm capable of doing serious harm.

Obviously, we can all hope the severity of the damage is limited. Regrettably, though, the line on federal disaster aid from congressional Republicans has not changed.

This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the GOP approach would break from how U.S. policymakers have operated. Whereas Congress used to provide emergency funds after a disaster, without regard for budget caps or offsets, Republicans have said they will no longer accept such an approach — if Democrats want emergency assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, Republicans will insist on attaching some strings to the relief funds.

In this case, the strings are cuts elsewhere in the budget. Or as Cantor’s spokesperson put it, GOP leaders expect “additional funds for federal disaster relief” to be “offset with spending cuts.”

The Republican position is already drawing fire.

“It is sinful to require us to cut somewhere … in order to provide emergency disaster assistance for American citizens,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) told The Huffington Post on Friday.

The Louisiana Democrat pointed out that this weekend is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his district and cost the federal government more than $100 billion. That recovery effort would have been delayed “by years” if Congress had required the same kind of spending cuts to offset aid, he said.

“I have been one who has been preparing for the hurricane, trying to give people some comfort. One thing they need to know is the federal government can come to their aid,” Richmond said. “I don’t think we’re in a position, given the rules set up by the majority, that we’re going to be able to come to their aid quickly.”

Perhaps realizing the potential for a political nightmare — Republicans are already unpopular; just wait until they hold hostage relief funds for communities hit by a hurricane — GOP leaders weren’t eager to talk about their position yesterday.

But they didn’t disavow it, either. Cantor’s office rejected questions about “hypothetical federal aid caused by hypothetical damage,” despite the fact that the Majority Leader and his spokesperson were more than willing to discuss the position 24 hours earlier.

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office was also cagey, saying policymakers will “discuss costs when and if they occur.”

Neither Republican leader offered the correct response, which is, “Of course we’ll do whatever it takes to help the affected communities.”

With any luck, this will be a moot point. If the damage isn’t severe, Congress won’t have to approve emergency relief. At this point, we just don’t know.

But in the event of extensive damage, there’s a real possibility that the first question from congressional Republicans won’t be, “How can we help?” but rather, “What will Democrats give us in exchange for disaster aid?”

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
  • mellowjohn on August 27, 2011 9:39 AM:

    i don't want to get weird here, but if irene takes out pat robertson's virginia beach facilities on her way up the coast, should we take that as a sign from god?

  • c u n d gulag on August 27, 2011 9:45 AM:

    "Ok, ok, we'll help out the women, children, and seniors effected over here.

    But first, you'll have to help us f*ck-over some women, children, and seniors over there!"

  • Danp on August 27, 2011 9:45 AM:

    What will Democrats give us in exchange for disaster aid?

    How about making it all about whether Republicans are going to draw that line in the sand again over depreciation schedules for corporate jets.

  • DAY on August 27, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Pity we didn't have this discussion in the run-up to George Bush's War(s). . .

  • kevo on August 27, 2011 9:56 AM:

    In their stated thoughts
    and deeded actions,
    both Cantor and Boehner
    have shown to me
    they represent
    an America
    I know not!


  • Mudge on August 27, 2011 9:57 AM:

    Hostage after hostage after hostage.....until the government is destroyed, establishing rule by the aristocracy and crumbs to the peasantry. Such patriots.

  • rrk1 on August 27, 2011 9:58 AM:

    What a ready made opportunity for the Democrats to paint the Rethugs as the mean, cruel, greedy, insensitive, assholes that they are. Of course, they won't. Obama should be out front on this, call them out, and become the champion of the victims. If we now understand him, he won't do that either.

    Of course he and his extensive entourage were evacuated from his vacation digs last night in preparation for Irene - much to the relief of the first responders here who had enough to do without having to deal with his security. And, of course, the departure of the Secret Service has opened up scads of hotel rooms for the utility emergency crews that have been pre-positioned here. Presidential visits are so much fun.

  • Texas Aggie on August 27, 2011 9:59 AM:

    The obvious things to give up are the oil subsidies, the tax breaks for hedge fund managers, and any projects in Virginia, specifically Cantor's district.

    capcha: xploit d'etat

    Seems like a reasonable description of the republicans in action.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on August 27, 2011 10:01 AM:

    If the damage isn�t severe, Congress won�t have to approve emergency relief. At this point, we just don�t know.

    In any event, the Obama team should have a command center complete with truckloads of supplies and a number of sequestered military helicopters and other equipment on standby. Invite CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, to report every minute from the command center "that is ready to roll as soon as Republicans in congress decide to stop playing games and start helping hurricane victims".

    Otherwise, Republicans are going to howl about Obama not providing aid after a Hurricane and try to fool/intimidate the dimwitted media into following their meme.

  • jlt on August 27, 2011 10:05 AM:

    This makes it BLATANTLY CLEAR HOW MUCH PEOPLE NEED GOVN"T...The First responders etc..and how stupid and vile those like ratface cantor are...anti American..considering the red states take back $1.68 for every dollar they pay in in tax! and Blue state take $.86 for every dollar they pay in!

    Think maybe we make cantor and Mcconnal pay for every roof that comes off their houses and business..maybe Irene could STALL over Virginia...like for a week... Despicable cretins!

  • FRP on August 27, 2011 10:05 AM:

    The obvious ...
    the obvious ...
    Hmm , there is nothing so obvious about the obvious facts .
    It's Common Sense !

  • liam foote on August 27, 2011 10:18 AM:

    They are completely shameless.
    And the people will see to them in 2012.

    That being said, I'm curious as to the comment by 'jlt' referring to the ratio of federal funds provided to states per tax dollars originally paid to the gov't. Interesting data. What might be the source? Thanks.

  • EriktheRed on August 27, 2011 10:21 AM:

    If there were any good time for the president to use his "bully pulpit" and really slam the GOoPers publicly, it would be now.

    Not gonna hold my breath, though...

  • FRP on August 27, 2011 10:32 AM:

    A Google search using the term
    ... the ratio of federal funds provided to states per tax dollars ...

    Turned up this page -

    It is like falling on or in love
    It's so easy

  • bob h on August 27, 2011 10:32 AM:

    The problem with Cantor and his ilk is that they do not have the intelligence to previsualize how their stances will be received. When the absurdity is pointed out, they have put themselves in the position of seeming to lose face by backing down. Stupidity of the Republican kind is very dangerous.

  • Extreme Moderate on August 27, 2011 10:55 AM:

    People like Cantor aren't thugs. They aren't shameless. They aren't stupid. They aren't cruel, mean, insensitive assholes. These guys are just un-American extremists. There. I've said it. They're un-American. Now I feel liberated.

  • coralwisp on August 27, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Welcome to Haiti

  • FRP on August 27, 2011 11:01 AM:

    The happy fact is that there have always been trial balloons sent out over the parish . The ones that come back covered in excrement are attributed to the enemy propaganda and then quietly dropped . The other more successful excrement filled balloons are then adopted into the family , like the good son Supply Side voo doo oh so serious economics .

    It is ever so much fun
    Reminders of being young
    To send out nasty grams
    Then say we didn't Ma'am !

  • Alli on August 27, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Can commercials be run on TV or even cable TV calling Republicans ASSHOLES!

  • captaindan on August 27, 2011 11:13 AM:

    If there is any justice, Irene will act as a Repugnant Bitch and devastate Virginia!

  • Nancy on August 27, 2011 11:18 AM:

    It isn't "sinful." It's ignorant. That's not the way the federal government works and you, Eric Cantor, cannot arbitrarily decide how the federal government will work. It's why we have a constitution. We don't withhold emergency assistance to the states ever. It's appalling that Cantor and the Republicans don't know it and that no one has pointed this out to them. That's what needs to be addressed -- their stunning ignorance. These people are redefining everything this country was built on and stands for. And I cannot believe no one has stopped them. Hello, Obama? Here's what you say, Mr. President: "we do not withhold emergency assistance to the states and our fellow Americans. Ever. Bring it on, Cantor, and I'll see you in court."

  • liam foote on August 27, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Thanks, FRP.
    Appreciate the link.

  • Brenna on August 27, 2011 11:25 AM:

    Cantor and the rethugs have painted themselves into a very narrow corner. That's a dangerous place to be.

    Does the house have the authority do withhold funds w/o offsetting cuts? If not, Obama should tell them to stuff it. The public will clearly be on his side. By all accounts, this storm is expected to be historic.

  • Schtick on August 27, 2011 11:27 AM:

    I think it's long past time the taxpayers decide where their taxes go. I for one would be pleased as punch if our taxes no longer paid for our elected idiots, their health benefits, and their retirement. Let them be paid for time on the job, at minimum wage and let them pay their own healthcare benefits with a voucher. A $3000. voucher sounds fair to me.
    I know, I know. On the 12th of never.

    crapcha really really is crappy

  • jcricket on August 27, 2011 11:28 AM:

    That Cantor won't repeat today his position of yesterday just shows what a snivelling worm he is.

    I wonder if his fellow Virginians in the path of the hurricane were too busy evacuating or nailing plywood to their windows to have heard him?

  • FRP on August 27, 2011 11:35 AM:

    Dear Mr Cricket :
    ___As you well know worms , regardless of their "nasal" disposition , remain at home out of sight until it rains , or a persistent electric current is passed through the Living Tunnel .
    Regards to as how a slimy life of worming around with snivelers is observed , please address all relevant insights to -

    Eric Cantor
    You Caint see me
    Safe from the pitchforks
    Here in the epidermis of life
    Ground Virginia , USA

  • FRP on August 27, 2011 12:02 PM:

    On that romantic Schtick

    I have a never ending thing
    For Johnny Mathis
    He is a wonderful singer , he is

    Thanks fer the memory

    On or about the certainty of the twelfth

    A dozen , or something off the shelf

    A dusty tune tied with ghosts

    Once they lived their wealth was warm

    Never bringing hard thoughts edged

    With uncertainty as a boast

    Evacuated host safely dredged

    Virgina's empty soul cheaply crying

    The neighbors need is most

    Cantor's heroic vaunt

    Choose between hunger , death , and lying

  • Steve P on August 27, 2011 12:17 PM:

    This sort of thing never happened to Lyndon Johnson. He'd just mention what a shame it'd be if he had to cut spending on a bunch of the projects/boondoggles at Newport News, and Cantor's equivalent would emerge from an emergency meeting of the Virginia delegation with duct tape over his head.
    I know Obama's playing a deep game, but I wouldn't mind seeing his next two moves.

  • Kane on August 27, 2011 12:35 PM:

    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.

    Perhaps at some point we should recognize that the republican hostage strategy is less of a strategy and more of a GOP platform.

  • Mermaiden on August 27, 2011 12:41 PM:

    Lord, everytime I see a pic of EC, I think, what a pencil-necked, smarmy, self-rightous, phony. Seriously, it is unbearable to listen/watch any of these Baggers bagging off. Cantor, if even the most distant of your relatives takes one penny of any type of assistance, be it disaster relief, social security, or even checks out a book from the library, you should skulk away in shame. Crawl back up Dick Cheney's a**hole, or where ever it is you cancerous spawns slither, slouch, and crawl from. Bachmann, meantime, won't rule out lowering the minimum wage. I so would love to see that Stepford Wench try it.

  • Christiaan on August 27, 2011 12:57 PM:

    I thought it was Christian to help each other in time of need. Shows I don't know much about religion.

  • nk007 on August 27, 2011 5:26 PM:

    @rrk1: Why do you have this obsessive hatred of President Obama?

  • Scott on August 27, 2011 6:23 PM:

    I think we should take up Cantor's suggestion. There must be some roads and bridges projects, military construction projects in his district that he ould offer up. Perhaps, his own congressional staff could be cut. How about cutting Medicare payouts to hospitals in his district. Surely, he won't object.

  • priscilla Peters on August 27, 2011 6:25 PM:

    I don't think I can even come close to saying it any better than what I've just read.
    the repubs are a gang of thugs/hypocrites. EC is the worst with his self righteous style. Oh Lord is right!!

  • Sam Simple on August 27, 2011 6:42 PM:

    One could very effectively argue this is the highest calling of government - to protect Americans during a natural disaster and assist them after it's over. Cantor and Boner have an ineffective and losing argument on this one.

  • low-tech cyclist on August 27, 2011 7:07 PM:

    "What will Democrats give us in exchange for disaster aid?"

    Ummm, why should that be an issue?

    Appropriations bills have to originate in the House. The Republicans control the House.

    The Dems should say nothing, do nothing, until the House Republicans pass a bill. No negotiating, no informal talks, no nothing.

    Just "the Constitution requires us to wait on the House majority to pass a bill. There's nothing we can do until then."

    Force the GOP to negotiate with themselves over the cuts. Force them to be the ones to state their own ransom. We can stick 'em with this one, and by God, we should.

  • Doug on August 27, 2011 7:23 PM:

    "What a ready-made opportunity for the Democrats to paint the Rethugs as the mean, cruel greedy, insensitive assholes that they are. Of course, thy won't." rrk1 @ 9:58 AM

    When Republicans themselves are doing such a fine job displaying their "inner" thug, why should Democrats spend money that can be better used during the elections? THAT is the time to remind voters of what "assholes" Republicans are!

  • Celui on August 27, 2011 7:28 PM:

    A lot of Democrats have been upset with President Obama lately over his refusal to respond forcefully to Republicans when they refuse to compromise, spout Tea Party slogans, and (a la Rick Perry) say they want the federal government to do much less while, all the while ignoring the role those tax dollars from Washington play in propping them up at the state level. What Democrats want is for Obama to act more like President Bartlet did in this classic "West Wing" debate episode, where he puts a small-government southern Governor in his place with one simple question..

    Post: The President Democrats Want
    Link: http://paulharrisonline.blogspot.com/2011/08/president-democrats-want.html

  • tanya on August 27, 2011 11:09 PM:

    Instead of democrats getting mad at the president, why don't they blast the GOP assholes every time they get on TV.. instead of backing down every time GOP cheerleaders squad (msm)....

    Democrats act like wimps, IMO.. very time the t-pubs say or do something outrages, instead of calling them out or be just as bold, they turn to president & ask "what you'll going to do? or "Are you going to use your bully pit?"..

    This is like a one man army fighting against many... And the msm remind me of a sport casters at a boxing match..
    Who look for the most discontent, frustrate who never voted for the president in the first place to get on camera.. And the wimpy democrats fall for it all the time.. No, you say, ex.: 1. closing of GITMO what truly happen? Senate voted to tied his (Pres.), congress did even worst they defund funding for prosecution. 2. Infrastructure bills that congress could has passed, but the senate are to afraid to lose there seats to go out on the limb and killed the 60 majority vote rule.. Etc., etc...

    My question is when they get a camera stuck in their face why don't they put the republicans out there?

  • dopey-o on August 27, 2011 11:12 PM:

    just saw this over at Kos:

    Ayn Rand's philosophy:
    I'm on board, pull up the lifelines!

    imagine a whole party based on that! oh, cantor already did that....

  • zandru on August 27, 2011 11:51 PM:

    Bravo Nancy!

    "Here's what you say, Mr. President: "we do not withhold emergency assistance to the states and our fellow Americans. Ever. Bring it on, Cantor, and I'll see you in court."

    "solena soldier" - that's what the President needs to be.

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  • Big Dave on August 31, 2011 6:26 AM:

    So, the American people are at the mercy of Republicans hell bent on destroying everything that has made our country the envy of the world. We have always been considered the most generous and most compassionate nation to ever exist, and now we're so greedy we can't even help our own people in need! Shed tears Americans, it seems the America that we've loved and been proud of for so long, is being destroyed from within!