U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon County) is disagreeing with one of his party’s top leaders and saying that the federal government should “spend whatever is necessary” in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
Lance, in an interview with Patch Saturday morning, said that he disagrees with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) that any federal spending to tackle the hurricane’s aftermath should be tied to equal reductions from other parts of the federal budget. Cantor’s spokeswoman told Talking Points Memo on Thursday that the majority leader believes the additional spending should be tied to the cuts.
Cantor first made the disaster spending declaration in May following the tornado, which destroyed Joplin, Missouri. Cantor has been taking the lead among House Republicans in calling for reductions in federal spending, a topic now being debated in a bipartisan super committee in Washington to address deficit reduction.
Cantor also reiterated his disaster aid policy earlier this week after the earthquake, which was centered in his central Virginia district.
Lance, who has made the federal deficit and budget a key policy area, said in cases of emergency management spending, he disagrees with Cantor.
“I think we should spend whatever is necessary for the emergency,” Lance said.
Lance, who represents such flood prone communities as Cranford, Bound Brook and Manville, said that he expects to communicate his position on the issue to Cantor and other House Republican leaders later this week. He said he is likely to be on a conference call with House Republicans in a few days to discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. The hurricane is expected to hit much of the eastern United States including North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Lance said that while he may not be able to discuss federal disaster relief for New Jersey on the call, he will be communicating it to congressional leaders, along with Obama Administration officials, through other channels.
“We ought to spend what is necessary,” he said.
Lance spent Saturday morning meeting with officials in Cranford, Bound Brook and Manville to discuss flood preparations. During his meeting with Cranford officials, the first stop on his tour, Lance told local officials that he would provide whatever assistance was necessary. A Lance aide told local officials that she would be providing news of the Cranford evacuation to local residents on Lance’s email distribution lists.
During the meeting, Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach told Lance that the township will likely be looking for assistance with the township’s ongoing flood prevention project. The mayor briefed Lance on a preliminary Army Corps of Engineers report that shows there are several spots in the township’s dike system, which are unstable and could fail in the rain. The final dike report is not scheduled to be completed until the end of September or beginning of October.
Aschenbach said that the township will be looking to receive additional federal funding to offset the costs of the final stages of the flood project. He noted he is concerned over the new federal rules eliminating earmarks for such projects, requiring the projects to go through a formal congressional approval. Lance is a supporter of the earmark ban.
Lance said that FEMA officials have set up base in New Jersey and the state’s bipartisan congressional delegation has been in contact to discuss assistance for the state. He noted that President Obama has declared a federal state of emergency for New Jersey.
“I see a great deal of prepartion and hard work,” Lance said of his Saturday tour.