Eric Cantor: Congress will find the money for earthquake aid

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, and US Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.,front left, are led on a tour of the Louisa County High School by Superintendent Deborah Pettit, right, in Mineral, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011. A 5.8 earthquake centered near Mineral damaged the school. AP Photo/Steve Helber

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor assured his constituents on Wednesday that Congress "will find the monies" to assist earthquake victims in Mineral, Virginia - but the Republican lawmaker noted that "those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere."

Cantor and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, speaking together in a news conference, had previously toured Mineral to assess the amount of damage the city sustained in the wake of Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Mineral, which was at the epicenter of the quake, falls in Virginia's 7th district, which Cantor represents.

Cantor was in Israel when he heard news of the quake, but said he "quickly decided that I had to get home to ensure I could do anything I could."

When asked if the district would be receiving federal assistance from the government, McDonnell noted that the state had yet to do a thorough analysis determining "our own capacity through state and local resources and private and benevolent resources to be able to handle it," and had not yet determined whether it was "prudent" to request federal aid.

But, Cantor added, "the federal government does have a role in situations like this. When there's a disaster there's an appropriate federal role and we will find the monies. But we've had discussions about these things before and those monies will be offset with appropriate savings or cost-cutting elsewhere in order to meet the priority of the federal government's role in a situation like this."

Mineral residents experienced at least four aftershocks in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake, and more were expected to follow.

McDonnell described the damage to the district as "significant," but said it was a "blessing" there had been no reported deaths.

"The damage is more widespread and significant than the preliminary reports that we had gotten yesterday," McDonnell said. "The great blessing out of this seems to be that with an event of this proportion on the East Coast that there were virtually no significant injuries."

"This is obviously a time where the people of Virginia and hopefully beyond will need to rally together," he added. "The local government, the state government, the federal government, the churches the synagogues, the benevolent organizations to all find ways to be able to help these citizens in need."

Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the top Democrat in the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called for stronger nuclear safety standards in the wake of the quake, writing in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that "the Virginia earthquake is now our local 911 call to stop delaying the implementation of stricter safety standards."

The Wall Street Journal reports that Central Virginia's North Anna power station issued an "alert" status Wednesday after losing power in the earthquake's aftermath.

Cantor said in Wednesday's press briefing that he and McDonnell were headed to the plant later that day.

"Obviously that's the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard the news," Cantor said, "Oh my goodness, what about the nuclear power plant? So I'm glad to hear and read the reports that what should have happened, happened."

He added: "As for the road forward, I'm here to work along with the governor and along with all the residents of the seventh district and the commonwealth to do what we do best in times of disaster: we pull together. We are a can-do people and we will get through this."

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