Aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about Republican calls to offset any new disaster aid funding with budget cuts, to avoid just adding such spending on to the federal deficit.
Q A couple of days ago, Eric Cantor mentioned that he wanted to see a pay-for when it came to hurricane disaster relief. What do you guys think about that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are, as we said yesterday -- as I said, and I believe Administrator Fugate said, we're in the process still of assessing what the damages and costs associated with Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene will be. So it's premature to make a determination yet about what kind of costs could be incurred at the federal level.
Q What about the offset -- the idea of offsets?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don't want to get ahead of an estimate about whether or not additional funding will be required. I think the principle that when we have a national -- a natural disaster and an emergency situation in, in this case, a significant stretch of the country, our priority has to be with -- has to be responding to the disaster and then helping those regions and states recover.
I mean, this President is very committed to fiscal discipline, and it's -- obviously we applaud those who are committed also. I guess I can't help but say that I wish that commitment to looking for offsets had been held by the House Majority Leader and others, say, during the previous administration when they ran up unprecedented bills and not paid -- and never paid for them.
As for any visits by President Obama to areas hit by Irene, the White House says nothing is planned at this point.