When a massive tornado obliterated the town of Joplin, Missouri earlier this year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters that if the disaster ultimately required the government to step in and provide aid, it would have to be offset by cutting spending on other federal programs.
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"If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental," he said, using the anodyne language of budget policy.
Three months later, when a modest earthquake struck the town of Mineral, Virginia in his own district, and caused minor, but widespread damage along the eastern seaboard, Cantor upheld the standard. Congress, he said, "will find the monies" to help victims, but that "those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere."
Now, in the wake of Hurricane Irene -- a much costlier natural disaster -- Cantor may make the same demand, which could touch off a bitter fight on Capitol Hill.