Just as Hurricane Irene was slamming the East Coast, the political rhetoric was approaching category 5 strength in other parts of the country.
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann joked at a campaign event in Florida that the disaster was a sign from God that federal spending was out of control. “Washington, D.C., you’d think by now, they’d get the message: an earthquake, a hurricane. Are you listening?” Bachmann quipped, to big laughs from the audience.
As Texas Gov. Rick Perry was battling wildfires in his home state in May, he was appealing to Washington for disaster relief. After he was turned down by the Obama administration, Perry lashed out to reporters.
“We’re having to pick up 100% of the cost. Historically, the federal government picked up 75% of the cost of disasters like we have here, so there is no consistency with this administration,” Perry said.
In Perry’s speech announcing his presidential campaign three months later, Washington was part of the problem.
“I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can,” Perry said.
After last week’s earthquake near the nation’s capital, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, repeated his long-stated position that any disaster relief for shaken residents be matched with spending cuts in the federal budget.
“Those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government’s role in a situation like this,” Cantor said.
FEMA is making its own adjustments. To make room in its budget for cleanup efforts after Irene, the agency is delaying some rebuilding projects in Joplin, Missouri, where devastating tornadoes struck this year.
“For any projects that have not come in for approval, we’re not going to be able to fund those at this point. We’re going to postpone those,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said at a White House briefing Monday, referring to some efforts in Joplin.