Cantor (R-Va.) said earlier this week that he believed any additional funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster response budget should be taken from other government programs. The FEMA budget is reportedly under strain after relief responses to the Midwest tornadoes and Virginia earthquake.
"There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this ... all of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn't have," Cantor said last week.
On Wednesday, Cantor said that he was sure that disaster relief would be provided and the controversy surrounding his remarks was "an attempt to try and make a political story out of it."
Cantor's threat has been applauded by fiscal conservatives in Congress but denounced by governors — Republicans and Democrats alike — whose states are digging out in Irene's aftermath.
“You’re going to turn it into a fiasco like that debt-limit thing where you’re fighting with each other for eight or nine weeks and you expect the citizens of my state to wait?” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“They’re not gonna wait, and I’m going to fight to make sure that they don’t. I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of,” Christie said.
Price's comments may be an opening salvo, as House Democrats attempt to capitalize on Cantor's statement. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a series of press releases Thursday, is pressing House Republicans on the Eastern seaboard to distance themselves from Cantor. The strategy appears to be to leave vulnerable GOP members with the "Sophie's choice" of either breaking ranks with leadership or allowing Democrats to paint them as insensitive to the recovery effort and the plight of hundreds of thousamds of Americans.
“It’s outrageous Republican leadership would demand cuts to things like Medicare or education to fund this needed disaster relief but remain unwilling to demand Big Oil and multi-millionaires pay their fair share," said Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC in a statement. "It’s shameful to tell those Virginia families recovering from Hurricane Irene to wait for relief until a government budget committee meets.”
Price asked for the Cantor to "provide more clarity" on the Republicans' plan for disaster relief in a statement Thursday.
“People affected by natural disasters need to hear with certainty that Republicans are not going to hold emergency relief hostage to political objectives, and we still haven’t heard that,” Price said. “Saying your position is ‘maybe we will hold relief funds hostage’ until we get cuts to things like education or infrastructure or state homeland security grants is not good enough when Americans are in dire need.”