GOP offers short-term $24B Sandy relief package

After superstorm Sandy, at least four of the

After superstorm Sandy, at least four of the five houses on Bayview Place, a cul-de-sac off Clocks Boulevard in Massapequa, were so badly damaged they are no longer habitable. (Nov. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans on Wednesday offered a short-term $24 billion relief package for superstorm Sandy recovery as an alternative to the Democrats' $60.4 billion aid bill.

But majority Democrats said they plan to vote to reject the alternative aid package as soon as Thursday.

The GOP alternative strips out nearly $13 billion in mitigation for future storms, $15 billion in community development block grants and other money deemed unrelated to damage from Sandy -- including $150 million for distressed fisheries across the country.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced the package as an amendment Wednesday at the end of the third day of Senate debate on the aid bill.

"The responsible way is to identify the immediate needs and address those needs," said Coats, noting it is backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "And for those needs that are longer term, that's why we have committees and procedures . . . so it doesn't turn out to be wasteful."

Democrats said they had the votes to defeat the alternative Thursday when the Senate is expected to take up that and other amendments. A final vote on the Democrats' bill is expected Thursday or Friday.

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"This proposal is not even within the ballpark of what New York and New Jersey need," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "We welcome a vote but it has no chance of passing the Senate. We will keep fighting until New York gets its fair share."

Some key Republicans, including Oklahoma Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe and Arizona Sen. John McCain, have attacked the $60.4 billion aid package as too big and too fat with "pork" and other funding unrelated to the costs of recovery from Sandy.

Coats said it would be a first installment of assistance to meet immediate needs of New York and other states hit by Sandy but would also allow Congress to vet funding for longer-term projects.


Coats said that under the GOP plan, the aid would go through March 27, the end of the current spending bill. He pointed out that FEMA director Craig Fugate had testified to Congress that his agency had enough money to fund the recovery through spring.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that only 38 percent of the Democrats' aid package would be spent in the first two years, Coats noted. Schumer and other Democrats have disputed the calculation.

A summary of the GOP alternative provided by Coats shows that it eliminates $336 million that Democrats added for Amtrak in their bill and restores the $32 million requested by the White House.

The measure also cuts the $150 million for declared disasters in fisheries in Alaska and elsewhere and removes the $10 million for repairing Smithsonian Museum roofs in Washington.

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