Liberal-leaning groups in Virginia pounced on comments House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made about how federal disaster aid must be offset by spending cuts while his home state is recovering from a pair of natural disasters.

Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters that last week while he was touring Mineral, the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), left, talk with food store owner B.J. Singh, right, outside his store in Mineral on Aug. 24. (STEVE HELBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A few days later, his spokeswoman said something similar about Hurricane Irene. “Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts,” spokeswoman Laena Fallon said.

“We have truly reached a new low in American politics if Rep. Cantor is willing to use disaster relief as a political bargaining chip,’’ said Jay Johnson, a board member of Virginia Organizing. “Disaster relief is a necessary function of government and not something to be bartered with. ...We are the richest nation in the world and should be able to respond to disasters with more dignity than someone bartering for a couch on Craigslist.”

“I urge Republicans like Governor Bob McDonnell and George Allen to stand with struggling Virginia families and denounce Cantor’s callous and extreme position on critical federal aid for people who have been affected by this natural disaster,’’ said Dave Mills, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

In April, Cantor came under criticism — from even a Republican or two, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — for saying money to tornado victims in Missouri must be cut elsewhere.