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Editorial: Drastic cut in Sandy aid is pure politics

People clean up debris from a destroyed home

People clean up debris from a destroyed home on Shore Road in Lindenhurst on Nov. 4, 2012 in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The unseemly way business is done in Washington now threatens attempts to fix the mess left by Sandy.

The $60-billion aid bill before the U.S. Senate, which could be voted on as soon as today, is a fair start: It won't pay for everything on the wish lists of the region's governors and local leaders, but it's enough to accomplish much of what's necessary.

Now, though, some Republican senators, mostly from states that don't love New York, want to cut the appropriation to $24 billion. It's too deep, and the promise that they'll come back with more money later if it's needed is an iffy proposition.

The money is needed, and that need won't fade. What will fade, once the devastation has receded from the national consciousness, is support. Once that happens, big-money allocations will be even harder to secure.

Opponents of the larger funding bill are crying that it's full of pork, but that's not really true. This legislation would be cleaner if it hadn't been amended to include things like $150 million for fisheries, repairs of a roof at a Smithsonian museum and replacing FBI laboratory and office equipment. We wish that were the case. But these projects are financially minimal, and sound. They need to be funded, and they need to be funded in this bill to sway some Republican votes. But in adding these projects, supporters have opened themselves up to accusations the bill is flawed.

Some of the requested money is being opposed because it's meant to harden the region against storms, rather than merely making the cheapest possible repairs. That's true, but rebuilding badly certainly doesn't make sense. What we're seeing here is the same kind of bickering so omnipresent in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. It's business as usual in Washington, but it has no place in a discussion where the need itself is so extraordinary.

When Katrina hit, Congress approved $61 billion in aid within two weeks. Making New York and its neighbors wait, or making them rebuild shoddily, is pure politics, not fiscal conservatism.