The Continuing Story of Cuts-for-Irene Aid

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 20 2011 2:00 PM

The Continuing Story of Cuts-for-Irene Aid

Back on September 1, when Eric Cantor was getting julienned over his talk of paying for Hurricane Irene disaster relief with cuts, I asked his spokesman Brad Dayspring what this meant. If everyone would get their funding, and nothing was getting held hostage, did this mean Cantor would vote for a supplemental with no cuts?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"How much would the request be for?" says Dayspring. "What do the Govs say is needed? I can tell you that obviously no one would stand in the way of urgently needed funding, that’s just silly."
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On September 7, Cantor was asked another version of the question.

Unequivocally, I am for sure making people get their money and not having to wait. I would like to say also that some of the reporting done, maybe by you in this room and others has been inaccurate. I have never, never said that I'm holding anything hostage or would be for playing politics with this. It is inaccurate and I think it is irresponsible on part of those who have written that.

At the time there was no supplemental request. After that, the White House asked for $500 million in emergency supplemental funding. The Republican response to this -- I'm truncating the story -- has been $1 billion in supplemental funding paid for by cuts to an energy efficiency program that Democrats supported, and the GOP doesn't like.

To put it lightly, Democrats are annoyed.

[Steny] Hoyer criticized the House GOP bill for offsetting about $1 billion in FEMA funding with cuts to a fuel-efficient manufacturing program. 
“We believe the Republicans’ $1.5 billion cut in the advance manufacturing technology initiative is counterproductive to growth in jobs and to growth in the economy. We think they’re making a mistake,” the Democratic whip told reporters in his weekly briefing Tuesday. “I think Democrats will be loathe to support that effort. We think it’s counterproductive.”

Did the GOP change its position? The question came up several times in Cantor's briefing. The response: Democrats in the Senate, who have voted on a larger FEMA funding bill with no attached cuts, are "playing political games," and their clean bill can't pass in the House.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.