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

August 29, 2011 5:28 pm ET

In 2011, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has consistently opposed federal disaster relief without offsetting budget cuts. However, 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 Demands Budget Cuts To Offset Federal Disaster Relief

Rep. Cantor Spokeswoman: "Eric Has Consistently Said That Additional Funds For Federal Disaster Relief Ought To Be Offset With Spending Cuts." From Talking Points Memo: "'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.'" [Talking Points Memo, 8/25/11]


May 2011: Deadliest Single Tornado On Record Kills 124 In Missouri. From CNN: "The tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, Sunday [May 22] killed 124 people, authorities said Tuesday, in what was the deadliest single U.S. tornado since modern record-keeping began 61 years ago." [CNN, 5/24/11]

Rep. Cantor: Emergency Spending "Will Have To Be Cut From Somewhere Else." From the Washington Times: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri's tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else. 'If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,' Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. The term 'pay-fors' is used by lawmakers to signal cuts or tax increases used to pay for new spending." [Washington Times, 5/23/11]

Rep. Cantor Insisted On Offsets For Joplin Disaster Relief Spending In CBS Interview. From the May 29, 2011 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:

HARRY SMITH (HOST): One of the things you said earlier this week is that emergency funding should be offset by cuts to the budget deficit. Do you standby that?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: First of all, Harry, I-- I know that America is just stunned by the scope of devastation and loss and-- and the horrific tragedy that the people of Joplin and other places across the country really are experiencing this tornado season. And so I know. And our hearts go out to them. And also we see in the healing process that there is an appropriate federal role. Congress will find the money and it'll be offset. And we're going to wait for the President to come forward with his recommendations as to the amounts. And again, Congress will have the money to help begin the rebuilding and the healing process in Joplin.

HARRY SMITH: But will you insist that there is a quid pro quo that there's a trade?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: You know, Harry, it-- it's like this if when a family is struck with tragedy, like the family of Joplin, you know, they have, let's say if they had, you know, ten thousand dollars set aside to do something else with--to buy a new car, to do something else. And then they were struck with a sick member of the family or something and needed to take that money to apply it to that, that's what they would do because families don't have unlimited money. And-- and really neither does the federal government. But there's no question there's a federal role here to play.


REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: Congress will find the money. It will be offset. [Face the Nation, 5/29/11]


August 2011: Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake Rattles East Coast. From Reuters: "A strong earthquake rattled the East Coast on Tuesday, sending tremors as far as Canada, damaging well-known buildings in the nation's capital and sending scared office workers into the streets. There were no reports of major damage or serious injuries from the 5.8 magnitude quake, which was centered in Mineral, Virginia. It was the largest quake in Virginia since 1897 and struck at a shallow depth, increasing its potency." [Reuters, 8/23/11]

Quake's Epicenter Was In Rep. Cantor's District. From CBS News: "Cantor and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, speaking together in a news conference, had previously toured Mineral to assess the amount of damage the city sustained in the wake of Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Mineral, which was at the epicenter of the quake, falls in Virginia's 7th district, which Cantor represents." [CBS News, 8/24/11]

Rep. Cantor: Earthquake Relief Spending Must Be Offset. From CBS News: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor assured his constituents on Wednesday that Congress 'will find the monies' to assist earthquake victims in Mineral, Virginia - but the Republican lawmaker noted that 'those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere.' [..]But, Cantor added, 'the federal government does have a role in situations like this. When there's a disaster there's an appropriate federal role and we will find the monies. But we've had discussions about these things before and those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government's role in a situation like this.'" [CBS News, 8/24/11, emphasis added]


August 2011: Hurricane Irene Leaves 5.5 Million Without Power On East Coast. From Reuters: "Energy firms along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard scrambled on Monday to resume operations after Hurricane Irene that left 5.5 million customers without electric power. Utility firms whose transmission lines were battered by the storm, which hit over the weekend, faced the most daunting workload ahead, with millions of homes and businesses from North Carolina to Maine still cut off. Crews said the work would take days, and up to weeks in the hardest-hit zones, as they dealt with flooding and debris." [Reuters, 8/29/11]

Hurricane Irene Caused At Least 25 Deaths. From CNN: "Emergency officials said at least 25 people in nine states have died as a result of Hurricane Irene." [CNN, 8/29/11]

President Obama Declared A State Of Emergency In Vermont Due To Widespread Flooding From Hurricane Irene. From the Los Angeles Times: "President Obama signed a declaration of emergency Monday for Vermont, hard hit during the night by severe and 'epic' flooding caused by the last gasps of Tropical Storm Irene. Cleanup and damage assessment is underway up and down the East Coast with some estimates putting a $7-billion price tag on this storm." [Los Angeles Times, 8/29/11]

Damage Estimates For Hurricane Irene Are As High As $7 Billion. From CNN Money: "Hurricane damage could total $7 billion, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., which estimates the impact of natural and man-made disasters on the economy. Less than half of that -- some $3 billion -- will be covered by insurance, the company said. Eqecat, a catastrophe risk-modeling firm, said that South and North Carolina suffered between $200 million and $400 million in insured losses. And the Caribbean -- including the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico -- suffered damage ranging from $300 million to $600 million." [CNN Money, 8/29/11]

Rep. Cantor: Disaster Relief Needs To Be Paid For With Cuts "Has To Be Offset By Savings Elsewhere." In an interview on the August 29, 2011, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Rep. Cantor had the following exchange with host Martha MacCallum:

CANTOR: We will find the money, if there is a need for additional monies. But where we are, Martha, is those monies are not unlimited and what we've always said is we've offset that which has already been funded. And in fact the House of Representatives has passed a bill already and sent it over to the Senate in which there's over a billion dollars in disaster relief money that is paid for. And in fact we said this is a priority, and we'll find other places to save so that we can fund this kind of role that the federal government needs to play. But the Senate hasn't acted, so hopefully the Senate will come back to Washington and pass that bill.

MACCALLUM: But obviously, given your background and everything you've said, you believe that any federal money that comes out for Hurricane Irene needs to be met dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts, is that right?

CANTOR: Well again, the House has already acted and has already funded over a billion dollars for additional disaster relief money. That money has been offset by savings elsewhere. Again, just like any family would operate when it's struck with disaster, it finds the money it needs to to take care of a sick loved one or what have you, and then goes without a trying to buy a new car or put an addition onto the house. [...] But in instances like this, yes there's a federal role, yes we're gonna find the money, we're just gonna need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so. [Fox News, 8/29/11]

Cantor Did Not Call For Offsetting Cuts When He Requested Disaster Relief In 2004


August 2004: Tropical Storm Gaston Flooded Richmond, Killing Five. From theNew York Times: "Battering wind and record-setting rain from Tropical Storm Gaston caused at least five deaths as a deluge washed away roads, flooded houses and businesses, and sent vehicles floating down the streets of Richmond. Five people were confirmed dead by late Tuesday, and several others were reported missing. [...] Around 8 p.m. on Monday, after five hours of high wind, heavy rain and multiple tornado warnings for the area, the governor declared a state of emergency for affected areas across Central Virginia. About 1,000 people were forced from homes in Richmond, where the storm's effects were felt hardest. The strip of I-95 that runs through the heart of Richmond was closed Monday night as driving rain, strong wind gusts and flash floods caused at least 20 accidents. By Tuesday morning, 18 primary and 161 secondary roads in Central Virginia were closed, flooded or completely washed out by Tropical Storm Gaston, which weakened to a tropical depression before it trundled through Richmond, bringing 14 inches of rain in eight hours in some areas. The storm came ashore on Sunday in South Carolina." [New York Times8/31/04]

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]