House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and local officials inspect damage in Culpeper, Va., after last weeks earthquake.
“These are disasters that there is a precedent for a federal role,” he said. “I believe there’s an appropriate federal role. And the monies will be there. There’s never been a question about that so again the attempt to try and portray this as some kind of political issue, it’s not. We have a budget issue for sure, we all know that.”
Most other Republicans have been noncommittal on the issue. House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, for instance, said in a statement that it is “too early to determine what the overall costs will be and how they will be paid for.”
“Clearly, however, there will be a large federal response,” the New York lawmaker said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been the most prominent Republican to take issue with Cantor for bringing up the budget during a time of natural disaster.
“Nobody was asking about offsetting budget cuts in Joplin,” Christie said at a news conference this week, referring to the Missouri town that was hit by a tornado this year. “And 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.”
Two New Jersey Republicans have since agreed with their governor.
A spokesman for Rep. Frank LoBiondo, whose district includes Atlantic City, which was hit hard by the hurricane, said in an email that “the congressman agrees with Gov. Christie.”
And Rep. Jon Runyan, who represents a significant portion on New Jersey’s coastline, released a statement Tuesday saying that “now is not the time for a budget debate when so many people and communities are still under water and many without power.”
“While I respect Majority Leader Cantor and share his commitment to spending discipline, my focus right now is making sure hard-hit areas in New Jersey receive the necessary federal resources they need in order to recover,” Runyan added.
Rep. Michael Grimm told Roll Call that protection from disaster lies at the heart of the government’s mission.
“There’s no question that the government should play a much more limited role in our lives than it currently does,” the New York Republican said. “However, protecting life and property are the fundamental responsibilities of government, and providing protection and relief from disaster is a large part of that. I have been touring my district since Hurricane Irene struck and have seen many hard-hit areas that could greatly benefit from federal aid.”