House to vote Tuesday on $51B Sandy aid bill

Neighbors Joe Valentino, left, and Chaim Lazarus get

Neighbors Joe Valentino, left, and Chaim Lazarus get out Sunday to survey the damage from superstorm Sandy along New Hampshire Street in Long Beach. (Nov. 4, 2012) (Credit: Jeremy Bales)

WASHINGTON -- The House version of the $51 billion disaster recovery package for superstorm Sandy drew 77 amendments by Friday's deadline, including several Republican proposals to drastically reduce the amount of money available for assistance.

Republican amendments include proposals to limit the total funding to only the amount that can be spent by October; to slash $16 billion for community development block grants; and to cut $200 million to improve weather forecasts.

Democrats proposed to restore $45 million to $150 million for fisheries disasters that was cut from the House bill; to extend aid to houses of worship and housing co-ops; and to allow community development block grant funds to be used to pay the local share of costs for Army Corps of Engineers projects.

The sheer number of amendments poses a potential hurdle to passage of the bill if the House leadership and House Rules Committee allow them all to go to the floor for debate and a vote, according to aides.

The Rules Committee meets Monday afternoon on the bill and amendments. It then will send the package and amendments to the floor for debate and votes on Tuesday.

"It's their job to limit the number of amendments," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said. If only two or three amendments survive, he said, "I'm confident we can beat them."

The package will include the underlying $17 billion aid bill, a $33 billion first amendment and other allowed amendments.

Republicans filed 45 amendments, Democrats submitted 27 proposals, and bipartisan groups offered the other five.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) filed the amendment to extend aid to housing co-ops. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) submitted an amendment to clarify that money for fisheries disasters -- a much-criticized part of the aid package by fiscal conservative groups -- would be for only those damaged by Sandy.

Amendments to strip away most of the funding and to limit assistance to what can be spent in the next nine months were filed by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).

"The fact is of the $50 billion, only $4 billion is to be spent this year, and more than 90 percent will be for future years," he said. "We have a normal budget process to provide scrutiny for that kind of spending."

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) proposed an amendment to pay for the Sandy recovery package with money taken from foreign aid to all countries except Pakistan and Israel.

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