FLASHBACK: Rep. Cantor Did Not Mention Offsetting Cuts In 2004 Requests For Federal Disaster Relief

August 29, 2011 3:22 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Eric Cantor

Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) affirmed his opposition to federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Irene without offsetting budget cuts. "Just like any family would operate when it's struck with disaster," Cantor said on Fox News, "it finds the money to take care of a sick loved one or what have you, and then goes without trying to buy a new car or put an addition onto the house."

That's a badly flawed analogy: Cantor's desired cuts aren't analogous to not buying a new car, but rather selling the family station wagon for parts. Nonetheless, it's worth pointing out that Cantor didn't always prioritize fiscal "discipline" over helping his constituents recover from disasters. After Tropical Storm Gaston hit the Richmond, VA area in 2004, Cantor appealed to President Bush and DHS Director Tom Ridge for disaster assistance and took credit for securing federal funds when they became available:

Cantor Pledged To "Ensure That Our Area Gets The Federal Disaster Assistance It Deserves." From a press release on August 31, 2004:

"There are thousands of people affected by Gaston. It is imperative that we start working to help our citizens who have lost so much," said Cantor. [...]

"I am committed to working with President Bush and Secretary Ridge to ensure that our area gets the federal disaster assistance it deserves," said Cantor. [Cantor Press Release, 8/31/04]

Cantor Letter To Secretary Ridge: "Time Is Of The Essence." In a letter to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, Cantor wrote:

I am writing to ask your help for my constituents in Central Virginia and the Richmond area that have suffered huge losses after the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston struck the Central Virginia area yesterday.  With 10-to-14 inches of rain falling in four hours, our area suffered significant loss of lives, heavy flooding, and property damage.

I respectfully request immediate action be undertaken by your Department to determine if Richmond and the Central Virginia region affected by yesterday's storm meets the criteria for a federal presidential disaster declaration.  Time is of the essence, and it is important to start working on this matter so my constituents can receive help in this time of need. [Letter To Secretary Ridge, 8/31/04]

Cantor Letter To President Bush: "My Constituents Are In Need Of Help." In a letter to President George W. Bush, Cantor wrote:

As a result of Tropical Storm Gaston, 8 people lost their lives, and damage to homes, businesses, roads, and bridges is extensive.  Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security are in place and are assessing the damage done to the Central Virginia region.

My constituents are in need of help that can be provided through a federal disaster declaration. [Letter To President Bush, 9/2/04]

Cantor Thanked President Bush, Took Credit For Securing Federal Funds. From a press release on September 3, 2011:

"I want to thank President Bush for his quick action in helping out the area's homeowners and business owners.  The sheer volume of rain far exceeded everybody's expectations, and a lot of people are in need of help.  The magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle and that is why I asked the President to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston," said Cantor. [Cantor Press Release, 9/3/04]

Note that Cantor did not call for offsetting budget cuts in any of those statements. It's not clear exactly when Cantor decided that federal disaster relief is too costly to support without strings attached, but his austere approach today is consistent with the Republican Party's demonstrated commitment for using unfortunate circumstances to advance their ideological agenda.