Vermont lawmaker invites Cantor to FEMA powwow on Irene disaster aid

Rep. Peter Welch (D) of the Irene-stricken state of Vermont has invited House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to a Thursday meeting with federal disaster officials to try to find a way to ensure disaster aid flows to victims of the hurricane, including those in Cantor’s district.

Cantor last month caused an uproar by suggesting federal spending cuts should be found to offset disaster aid.

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"As his district was severely impacted by both the recent earthquake and Hurricane Irene, Leader Cantor has been in constant contact with state and local officials as well as FEMA," Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said when asked whether Cantor would attend.

Welch's office said Wednesday evening that Cantor had told Welch that he would be sending staff to the meeting.

Cantor's office this month is emphasizing that money will be found for disasters, and says once President Obama officially requests supplemental money, it will be found in a fiscally responsible way.

Welch told The Hill he is hopeful a compromise can be found.


“If savings need to be identified, I’m fine with that. If it becomes a recipe for gridlock that would be very regrettable,” he said.

In total, Welch invited 47 members to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.

Welch told The Hill he thinks FEMA will run through the $600 million it has in its disaster relief fund before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Strategies, including an emergency supplemental bill and adding money to the continuing resolution Congress needs to pass before October, will be discussed at the meeting, he said.

Welch supports Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu's (R-La.) Homeland Security bill that would provide $6 billion for FEMA disaster funding next year — a higher level than the $3.65 billion in total new funding for the disaster relief fund House Republicans voted for this summer.

Landrieu is also pushing for a separate $1.5 billion in 2011 FEMA disaster funds, and said Tuesday she believes Republicans have little appetite to insist on offsetting it all.