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House GOP maneuvers to split Sandy aid bill

Superstorm Sandy left sand after the storm surge

Superstorm Sandy left sand after the storm surge into Long Beach. (Oct. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders will bring the Senate's $60.4 billion superstorm Sandy relief bill to the floor Tuesday -- but will split it in two, offering its own bill for $27 billion and an amendment to add $33 billion more to it, lawmakers said Monday.

The parliamentary maneuver seeks to satisfy House GOP fiscal conservatives while giving Sandy relief backers a chance to win approval of a total of $60 billion in aid, but its prospects for passage in both Houses in Tuesday's unusual New Year's Day session remain uncertain, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers said.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who backs the House approach, said, "I am confident there will be strong bipartisan support for this legislation when it is brought to the House floor."

But even King conceded the $27 billion bill and $33 billion amendment contain potential trip wires for the final Senate vote should the House pass only the bill, or both the bill and the amendment.

The Republican proposal strips out $150 million for declared disasters in fisheries in Alaska, Mississippi and other states, a "sweetener" that helped win Senate Republican votes, King said.

That might become an issue in the Senate, where it takes only one senator to block the Senate from voting on the measure, lawmakers said.

Rep. Steve Israel of Huntington, a member of the House Democratic leadership, raised questions about the two-bill approach, saying he was concerned that the second $33 billion might not pass -- and that New York and New Jersey definitely need the entire $60 billion.

Israel said House Democrats will not support the two-vote proposal until they know what's in the $27 billion and $33 billion measures, and whether Republicans will provide the votes to make passage a bipartisan matter.

Israel said he learned of the Republican approach from New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who spoke Monday with him, other New York representatives and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put the bill and its amendment on the calendar for Tuesday, King said.

But many House Republicans say they oppose approving a $60 billion aid package at a time when Congress and the White House are attempting to cut federal spending to deal with a $16 trillion deficit.

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