Here’s a story that’s delighting Democrats.
“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, is pushing for information on the status of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for federal disaster assistance for Louisa County residents in the wake of an earthquake there last month,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
On Friday, Cantor held a conference call with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Louisa County officials. A readout of the call provided by Cantor’s office indicates that he asked FEMA officials about the timeline and process for determining whether the agency would grant federal assistance. ‘FEMA said they have received the Governor’s request and sent it to the White House for a decision but could not provide any specific information on timing,” the readout said. “Even when asked for an estimate based on past applications they were unable to do so.’
Clearly it’s a bit rich that Cantor is trying to make sure disaster relief funds get to his district as quickly as possible given that he was perhaps the key actor in the Capitol Hill showdown which threatened to halt all of FEMA’s activities.
There’s another implication here, though, that Cantor may ultimately be responsible for the delay. If he’d just said nothing — never insisted for emergency supplemental funds for disaster relief be offset — then disaster aid wouldn’t have gotten mired in a budget fight, and the funds might have been easier to come by.
In multiple discussions, no executive branch officials would confirm that these issues were related, suggesting that if there’s a funding delay in Cantor’s district it isn’t the result of the recent skirmish on Capitol Hill.
Still, the story underlines a broader critique — that delayed disaster funds are harmful whatever the reason. And if a bureaucratic snafu (or some other issue) is hurting Cantor’s constituents, then other disaster victims are equally vulnerable to a funding delays that might be triggered by this past week’s legislative fight.
Cantor’s spokesman Brad Dayspring brushed aside the notion of a controversy and said instead of crowing now, Democrats could have accepted the offsetting-for-disaster aid principle and replenished FEMA’s account last week. “Perhaps the DCCC should be more concerned with the fact that Leader Pelosi, Chairman Israel, and all but five House Democrats voted against $3 billion in aid for FEMA, including over $1 billion in immediate emergency aid,” he wrote in an email. “That is more than Leader Reid and Senate passed last evening. The purpose of the call was solely to keep local officials informed on the timeline and process for determination by President Obama and Secretary Napolitano as to whether federal disaster aid will be granted. That is, you know, his job as a Congressman.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.