The latest effort by House Republicans to force further spending cuts is at the expense of those that are being, or will be, effected by Hurricane Irene. Meteorologists have predicted that Irene have wreak historic havoc along the eastern seaboard, and there has already been massive damage and multiple deaths reported. That aside, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is requiring that any appropriations for emergency relief funds be balanced by spending cuts somewhere else in the House budget. Cantor insisted in a press conference after the 5.8 earthquake in his home state of Virginia that, "any potential emergency disaster aid be offset by spending cuts," according to a recent report by CBSNews. This will also include emergency relief money for areas his by Hurricane Irene.
Should the government need to secure spending cuts before emergency aid monies can be distributed to devastated areas, the delay could cause massive shortages and greater suffering by people in these regions. Democratic representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said in response, "It is sinful to require us to cut somewhere ... in order to provide emergency disaster assistance for American citizens." Louisiana, a state that is no stranger to the devastation wrought by hurricanes, has been the recipient of billions of federal dollars after the 2005 destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Richmond said the recovery effort would have been "delayed by years" had the government needed to cut spending in order to appropriate those funds, making an already terrible situation much worse.
Traditionally, a bipartisan effort in government rushes through appropriations of federal aid to devastated regions; the delivery of which was part of the rationale for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. With Cantor's announcement that Republican House leaders would look for "offsets", or spending cuts, this is a break from the established method of securing domestic aid dollars.The Huffington Post attempted to press both Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner's representatives on where these offsets would be cut, and how long it may delay emergency relief, both offices declined to comment. However, due to a record number of natural disasters, FEMA is running relief programs in every state of the union; efforts which have depleted the agencies funds. President Obama may be forced to request special emergency relief funds through congressional appropriations, which will now be subject to spending cut offsets.
It's unclear exactly how this move is going to work, and how House Republicans think this is going to help Americans or the national reputation of their party. These same Republican leaders held the debt ceiling (and a potential credit downgrade for the country) hostage to force spending cuts, and now seem to be willing to hold victims of natural disasters hostage for the same purpose, even in their home states. There is a degree to which people will no longer stomach campaign-type right-wing rhetoric over practical questions of livlihood and even survival. Should their fiscal radicalism delay the recovery and rebuilding of Americans' lives in earthquake and hurricane ravaged areas of the country, anti-Obama and government-spending rhetoric might not be enough to save their Republican majority in 2012.