Rep. Cantor Won't Give His District Earthquake Aid Without Offsetting Cuts

August 25, 2011 11:35 am ET — Kate Conway

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) commitment to slashing government services runs so deep that he's willing to use just about anything (including the threat of a catastrophic default) to leverage spending cuts. Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake is just another opportunity for the congressman, who insists that federal aid for damaged parts of his district would have to be offset by cuts in other areas of the budget.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he intends to look for offsets if federal aid is needed to help areas of his Virginia district that were damaged in an earthquake Tuesday.

The next step will be for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to decide whether to make an appeal for federal aid, Cantor said. The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget.

"All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn't have," Cantor said in Culpeper, where the quake damaged some buildings along a busy shopping thoroughfare.

As Roll Call notes, it's customary for Congress to authorize disaster relief "outside normal budget caps and without offsets," but right-wing Republicans seem all too ready to hold disaster relief hostage to further their deficit-reduction agenda. When discussing aid for a devastating tornado that killed over 100 people in May, Cantor similarly made it clear that federal aid to help the afflicted Missouri community rebuild was contingent upon cuts to other programs.

At least now we know that Cantor's tight-fistedness is consistent, since he's no more forthcoming about federal money for his own district than for others, but that's probably little comfort for the residents of affected areas in Virginia. If they need aid, they can't count on their representative for no-strings-attached help, and there's nothing to say the offsetting cuts that Cantor demands won't affect some of the services on which they rely.