By Russell Berman - 09/07/11 06:55 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday there would be “no holdup” in approving federal disaster aid for localities ravaged by a recent earthquake and torrential storms.
Cantor had come under fire from Democrats for suggesting last month that Republicans would seek to offset new funding for disaster relief with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. On Wednesday, he sought to dispel any concerns that federal aid would be subject to a political fight in Congress.
Cantor’s Richmond district was hit particularly hard: the epicenter of the Aug. 23 earthquake hit in Mineral, Va., and more than 900,000 people lost power when Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast.
The majority leader would not say how much additional disaster funding he could support, noting that President Obama had not specified a request. Cantor noted that a mechanism for increasing emergency aid was included in the debt deal that Congress enacted in August, and said that his earlier comments about off-setting spending cuts were made in the context of the government’s traditional way of allocating disaster relief, which he criticized as “ad hoc.”
“There have been games played with disaster funding,” Cantor said.
In a Tuesday letter to appropriators, Obama’s budget director, Jacob Lew, said the administration would formally request an additional $4.8 billion in disaster funding. Cantor said he had not seen Lew’s letter. The Senate is considering a measure that would provide an additional $6 billion in disaster funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.