Looks like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will extend his requirement that federal disaster relief be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget to Hurricane Irene.
“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.
It’s worth pointing out that his home state of Virginia is in the line of the storm, so this, just as with the relatively minor earthquake damage, could present him with a political conundrum. Even if his non-coastal district escapes unscathed, his fellow delegates will want federal aid post haste, sans Congressional wrangling over the budget. The statement is, to be fair, an “ought to,” not a “must,” so perhaps this will be revisited.
Late update: To underscore how real this scenario is, Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency in Virginia.
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.