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DCCC Tries to Stoke GOP Rift Over Relief Funds

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and local officials inspect damage in Culpeper, Va., after last week’s earthquake.

Democrats are trying to use the issue of disaster relief spending to drive a wedge between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republicans from states stricken by last week’s earthquake and hurricane, an effort that the Virginia Republican’s office denounced Thursday.

“It’s not an issue for one party or the other, it’s the responsibility of Congress to come together to support disaster assistance if and when the president asks for it, and it’s also our responsibility to do so in a way that best serves all taxpayers and families,” Cantor Press Secretary Laena Fallon told Roll Call.

On a tour of areas of his district that were damaged in an earthquake on Aug. 23, Cantor said he would look for budget cuts to offset any federal emergency spending, if it is requested. After Hurricane Irene traveled up the East Coast over the weekend, Cantor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that emergency funds would be available if they are sought, and he pointed to the House-passed Homeland Security appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is offset elsewhere. The Senate has not acted on the bill.

Fallon said Thursday, “I can tell you that obviously no one would stand in the way of urgently needed funding, that’s just silly, and the Majority Leader has repeatedly made that point this week.”

To talk any more specifically would be premature, she added.

“How much would the request be for? What do the governors affected say is needed? When will the request be made?” she asked. “These are all unknowns because the White House has yet to make a request.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has seized on Cantor’s stance on offsets, accusing him of holding aid hostage, and it sent letters to news organizations in the districts of East Coast Republicans on Thursday to pressure them into weighing in.

Will the district’s Representative “stand against his Republican Leader Eric Cantor’s outrageous position that Hurricane Irene disaster relief cannot be funded until after House Republicans make draconian spending cuts to things like Medicare and education?” the letters asked.

Cantor told the Times-Dispatch on Wednesday, before the DCCC attack, that the matter of disaster aid was not a political issue.

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