To Woo Support, Sandy Aid Bill Plumped Up with Money for Another Hurricane
(WASHINGTON) -- Without mentioning them by name, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Thursday singled out specific Republican senators, calling on them to help pass the supplemental aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The call was also backed up quietly with some money.
Late Wednesday night the Senate Appropriations Committee made some hasty edits in the emergency spending bill for Sandy victims, adding money for states that had been hit -- by a different hurricane. The move no doubt sweetened the pot a bit for some senators who might otherwise complain about excessive government spending.
In a marked up version of the bill, provided to ABC News by a source who did not want to be named, an edit is made to a key sentence:
“That using $34,500,000 of the funds provided herein, the Secretary shall expedite and complete ongoing flood and storm damage reduction studies in areas that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy in the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
In the margin, written in pen, were edits adding funding for some hurricanes past.
It now reads, “….Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac in the North Atlantic and Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
You can see the edits, which were written in by hand by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, HERE.
Hurricane Isaac tore through the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast in August of 2012, hitting Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama the hardest.
Elsewhere in the marked up version of the Sandy bill were similar edits, changing references to just “Hurricane Sandy” to include Hurricane Isaac.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday Senate Majority Leader Reid singled out Republicans.
“When Irene struck, we acted very quickly,” Reid said, using relief for past hurricanes by way of example to get Sandy funding through, “We didn’t look and say, ‘Well, let’s see. Alabama has two Republican senators. Mississippi has two Republican senators. Texas has two Republican senators. Louisiana has one Republican senator.’”
The total amount of the bill will remain $60.4 billion, suggesting some of the changes effectively will divert money away from Hurricane Sandy aid to Hurricane Isaac relief.
Republicans’ support, even from states in the yearly path of hurricanes, is not guaranteed on the $60.4 billion Sandy aid package being debated in the Senate.
Republicans have balked at the size of the request, and have called for more time to review the deal.
Key Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma took issue at what critics saw as pork -- what the senators called "questionable" spending -- in the bill. According to The Wall Street Journal, the senators criticized more than $5 billion slated for the Army Corps of Engineers because it didn't specify what the money would fund. Headlines were also made by the bill's reported $125 million slated for various Department of Agriculture projects unrelated to Sandy. In a joint statement, the senators said of those extras, "Americans impacted by Hurricane Sandy deserve better than this."
The request, which still needs the approval of Congress, includes billions in urgently needed aid. But it also features some other items: $2 million to repair roof damage at Smithsonian buildings in Washington that happened before the storm; $4 million to repair sand berms and dunes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and $41 million for clean-up and repairs at eight military bases along the storm’s path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba among other items.
The Senate is currently working through the Sandy aid package with the hope that a bill can be passed this week or next.
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