The Washington Times - August 31, 2011, 11:45AM

Vermont’s congressman on Wednesday sent a letter to House leaders saying his state will need federal disaster payments to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene.

Rep. Peter Welch said his state’s taxpayers are usually on the donor’s end when it comes to federal disaster aid, since Vermont is not usually in the path of natural destruction. But this time around, it will need the help of others.

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“Vermont is responding promptly and energetically to repair and rebuild,” Mr. Welch, a Democrat, said in a letter to House leaders. “But we cannot do it alone. Upon our return to Washington, I will be asking to work closely with you and our House colleagues to provide Vermont with the federal assistance it needs to help itself recover.”

He didn’t give a dollar figure, but said six state highway bridges have been completely destroyed and washed-out roads have left nearly a dozen towns cut off from all but emergency aid.

Disaster relief is proving to be a touchy subject on Capitol Hill in the wake of both Irene and last week’s earthquake, centered in Virginia.

All sides agree that federal payments should be made, but Republicans said the new spending will have to be paid for with cuts elsewhere.

The White House, though, says that’s not generally been the case in the past, and questioned why Republicans are eager for offsets for disaster relief, while under President George W. Bush they approved billions of dollars in new spending without seeking cuts.