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Eric Cantor Would Offset Earthquake Aid

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he intends to look for offsets if federal aid is needed to help areas of his Virginia district that were damaged in an earthquake Tuesday.

“There is an appropriate federal role in incidents like this,” the Republican said after touring the damage in his district. “Obviously, the problem is that people in Virginia don’t have earthquake insurance.”

The next step will be for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to decide whether to make an appeal for federal aid, Cantor said. The House Majority Leader would support such an effort but would look to offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget.

“All of us know that the federal government is busy spending money it doesn’t have,” Cantor said in Culpeper, where the quake damaged some buildings along a busy shopping thoroughfare.

He ended a trip in Israel on Tuesday and quickly returned home after the magnitude-5.8 earthquake hit his Congressional district. It was also felt north in Washington, D.C., and New York City and south in North Carolina.

Cantor did not offer specifics on potential offsets, but his view is in line with House Republicans’ approach to disaster aid this year.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, used unspent funds from the fiscal 2009 stimulus law to offset about $1 billion in proposed fiscal 2011 emergency money intended to help the Southeast after a series of destructive storms. The provision for that disaster aid is in the fiscal 2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which the House has passed and the Senate has not taken up.

Although Aderholt’s district was among the hardest hit, he stressed the need to offset the emergency spending.

In years past, Congress has provided disaster relief outside normal budget caps and without offsets.

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