By Russell Berman - 09/02/11 06:08 PM EDT
A leading House conservative is backing Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s push to pair disaster relief funding with offsetting spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee, said on Thursday that Cantor (R-Va.) was “absolutely right” in suggesting that Congress look for offsets when providing federal aid for states and cities hammered by Hurricane Irene. Cantor has come under criticism from Democrats, who pointed out that his position is a shift from his stance during earlier weather events that affected his home state of Virginia.
"House Republicans agree that those who need disaster assistance should get it as quickly as possible,” Jordan said in a statement provided to The Hill. “The Senate has been sitting on our bill for months that would provide FEMA an additional $1 billion. Senate Democrats should take that bill up immediately.
"I also believe Eric Cantor has it absolutely right when he says that additional spending on disaster relief should be paired with cuts elsewhere in the budget," Jordan said.
Jordan’s support for the majority leader is not a surprise, given that the Ohio conservative has been one of the House GOP’s most aggressive advocates for deep spending cuts, to the point where he has occasionally sparred with the party leadership. The Republican Study Committee comprises about two-thirds of the GOP conference.
“Washington’s financial condition is still dire, and taxpayers expect us to take great care of their money,” Jordan said. “I would be happy to join Eric or any colleague to find other areas in the budget where we can cut lower-priority spending to offset the additional emergency spending that is needed today."
Under fire in Virginia and nationally, Cantor has stopped short of a ironclad demand that disaster relief be offset, but his spokeswoman has said that would be “the goal” for congressional leaders.
"There’s an appropriate federal role, and the monies will be there,” Cantor said Wednesday.
While the issue is politically sensitive, conservatives believe it would not be difficult to find areas to cut that voters would find less critical than disaster aid. Yet after months of fighting over spending cuts, Democrats could argue that much of the low-hanging fruit in the federal budget has already been plucked.