At the White House, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate discusses the response… (Larry Downing / Reuters )
As FEMA's budget is under new strain in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, a top House Republican maintained that any new funds allocated for federal disaster relief must be offset by budget cuts elsewhere.
Speaking on Fox News Channel, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said a natural disaster like Hurricane Irene is an "appropriate instance" for a federal role, but that the government can't go deeper into debt to pay for unexpected outlays.
"We will find the money if there is a need for additional monies," he said. But "those monies are not unlimited. And what we've always said is, we've offset that which has already been funded."
Cantor equated the situation to what an ordinary family would do in a crisis, doing without a new car to pay for the needs of a sick loved one, for instance.
"Unfortunately the government continues to borrow money and to spend money it doesn't have," he said.
Cantor's position has been the consistent view of majority Republicans since taking control of the House, even with disaster relief funding running thin after yet another severe weather event.
In anticipation of new requests for federal support, FEMA confirmed Monday it would temporarily halt appropriations for any new projects tied to previous disasters like the tornadoes in Missouri or Alabama.
FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said the agency is discussing a supplemental funding request with the White House.
"Our goal is to keep this disruption as short as possible, but it was prudent," said Fugate, who also stressed that individual assistance programs will continue to be funded fully.
Cantor said the House has already passed a measure providing for an additional $1 billion in disaster funds, and blamed the Senate for inaction.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, said that if FEMA could not "fulfill its promise" to his state, "We need to reexamine disaster response policies and how they're implemented."