In a rebuke to House GOP leaders, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told reporters on Friday that Congress should authorize disaster relief funds even if they are not offset with spending cuts. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has said that the emergency funds to help Missouri residents affected by deadly tornadoes should be paid for with cuts elsewhere, a break from recent precedent.
“No,” Barbour said when asked if he agreed with Cantor. “I think disaster relief is not predictable. Emergencies caused by tornadoes, hurricanes are not predictable. Even if Congress, which as far as I know they never have, set aside a pot of money, as some have proposed, and said, ‘Okay, here’s this money we’re going to use to pay for disaster relief’ — if they were to do that and we had a gigantic disaster that cost much more than that, surely Congress would go back and appropriate the extra money. And if they didn’t have a place to offset it, they should still go in and do it.”
Mississippi has been hit hard in recent years by hurricanes and floods, most notably Hurricane Katrina, and was also affected by the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast. Barbour told reporters on Friday, however, that he believed President Obama’s moratorium on drilling permits was more damaging to his state than the spill.
A spokesman for Cantor noted to TPM that there were instances under the Republican Congresses of the 1990s in which disaster relief was offset elsewhere, including supplemental assistance to Oklahoma City in the wake of a terrorist attack by Timothy McVeigh.
This story has been updated.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.