Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eric Cantor, first responders, and the right-wing war on government

So do you remember how, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the east coast, Eric Cantor signalled that he was prepared to hold disaster relief hostage by demanding budgetary offsets for any additional federal money going to emergency services?

Well, guess what?

On Friday, President Obama asked Congress for an additional $5.1 billion for disaster relief, including $500 million just to keep FEMA going through September:

The immediate impetus is the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene along the East Coast, but the cash problems of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been building for months given the spate of devastating tornadoes and flooding in the Midwest and South this year.

Money for a good cause, no? Even government-hating Republicans should do what needs to be done, at this bare minimum, to help those devastated by recent natural disasters all across the country.

Well, no. Predictably, a Cantor spokesman says that Republicans will demand offsets for the $500 million for FEMA. (The rest of the money, $4.6 billion, would be for the next fiscal year and would be dealt with down the road.)

In other words, Republicans are prepared to put their extremist right-wing ideology ahead of disaster relief -- and ahead of the victims of natural disasters. That should tell you an awful lot about their fucked up priorities.

But wait, there's more.

As ThinkProgress notes, Cantor's spokesman, defending the Republican position (and trying to make the case that Republican actually do care about the victims of natural disasters), stated that "[t]he House has passed $1 billion in disaster relief funds that is fully offset, which we will look to move as quickly as possible."

Well, that's okay then. That's great news.

Yeah, right.

The funds referenced by Cantor's spokesperson are contained in the House Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which is adamantly opposed by Senate Democrats. Why? The "offsets" contained in the bill are actually massive cuts to first responders.
And that wasn't the first time first responders were the chosen targets of Republican anti-government slash-and-burnism:
In December, Cantor opposed a bipartisan bill "to improve health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 first responders who were exposed to dangerous toxins and are now sick as a result." Now, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Cantor is pushing for further cuts to first responders in exchange for disaster relief.
Republicans usually target the poor, visible minorities, immigrants, and the like -- anyone who lacks a voice, and money, anyone disadvantaged and effectively disenfranchised. But it seems that first responders, some of the genuine heroes of our time, are also on that list.

Despicable. And just what you'd expect from Cantor, and from the party he helps lead.

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