General Braxton Bragg (left) and Eric Cantor (right wing)
Historian and novelist Shelby Foote liked to relate a story about Confederate General Braxton Bragg to illustrate how stubborn and perverse that general could be. The story went that in the pre-war army when Bragg was a lieutenant he was serving as a company commander at a remote army post. Because of a shortage of officers at the post, Bragg was also serving as quartermaster, or supply officer. In his role as company commander, Bragg requested in writing certain supplies for his company, but as supply officer, Bragg repeatedly turned down his own requests. Unable to reach an agreement with himself, Bragg finally referred the question to the post commander.
Confronted by Bragg's correspondence with himself, the post commander reportedly exclaimed, "My God, Mr. Bragg! You have quarreled with every other officer in the Army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!"
House Majority Leader is engaged in a similar exercise: demanding disaster relief for his constituents from FEMA while at the same time, blocking the funding FEMA needs in order to help disaster victims across the United States. From the Richmond Times Dispatch's politics blog:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, is pushing for information on the status of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for federal disaster assistance for Louisa County residents in the wake of an earthquake there last month.The answer to Cantor's question is pretty simple: FEMA would like to help, but Cantor himself is blocking passage of the funds needed to help the people of Louisa, Virginia's 7th Congressional District, and people across the United States as a whole. From TPMDC:
On Friday, Cantor held a conference call with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Louisa County officials. A readout of the call provided by Cantor’s office indicates that he asked FEMA officials about the timeline and process for determining whether the agency would grant federal assistance.
“FEMA said they have received the Governor’s request and sent it to the White House for a decision but could not provide any specific information on timing,” the readout said. “Even when asked for an estimate based on past applications they were unable to do so.”
To recap, FEMA's disaster account is set to run dry as early as Monday evening. Separately, the government will shut down at the end of the week if funding for federal agencies is not extended. On Friday, after weeks of denying they would hold disaster aid hostage to partisan budget cuts, House Republicans passed legislation that ties funding the government to FEMA funds and cuts to manufacturing programs and then skipped town, leaving Senate Democrats a take-it or leave-it proposition.At the end of the day Eric Cantor is simply quarreling with himself, or pretending to. Eric Cantor will no doubt try to blame Washington DC, but it is Cantor himself in his role as House Majority Leader who is holding disaster relief for Louisa and the rest of the United States hostage in order to pursue his own political agenda.
Senate Democrats are leaving it. But unlike in past showdowns, when Dems have allowed Republicans to set the terms of the debate, and have largely given in to their demands, there's reason to believe things are different this time around.