Cantor: Paying for disaster relief doesn't mean delayed relief

Cantor said he shares Hoyer's commitment to make sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gets the funding it needs to deal with earthquake and flood damage on the East Coast. He also said, however, that the House is not yet in a position to begin work on increasing funding for FEMA, as the state and local officials have not yet determined the amounts needed.

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Once that happens, and a determination is made that the need exceeds FEMA's current ability to help, the House can begin to consider increased funding for FEMA.

"We need to understand exactly what the costs are going to be, and we will make sure that we find the monies," Cantor said.

Hoyer noted that legislation increasing funding for FEMA could be coming from the Senate in the coming days. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a vote next week on an appropriations bill that would increase FEMA funding by $4.2 billion compared to a bill the House approved in June.

But Cantor also argued that in the longer term, Congress needs to break out of the "ad hoc" way it has provided funds to help deal with natural disasters. He said the House is now on a footing to provide funding for FEMA based on a 10-year rolling average of natural disaster costs.

He also said that the final determination of new FEMA needs might also be rolled into the FY 2012 appropriations process. Spending bills for FY 2012 will need to be in place by the end of September, although House Republicans have already said they expect a short-term continuing resolution that would fund government operations through the late fall.