House to Vote on Delayed Superstorm Sandy Relief
(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives is poised to vote on Tuesday to provide about $50 billion of additional relief for the region impacted by Superstorm Sandy last fall.
The base bill, known as the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Act, includes about $17 billion to fund immediate and critical needs for Sandy victims and their communities.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., has offered an amendment that would provide an additional $33 billion for disaster relief, bringing the total closer to the Obama administration’s emergency supplemental request, which called for $60.4 billion in total relief.
This amendment, which is opposed by many hard-line conservatives, includes funding for longer-term recovery efforts and infrastructure improvements intended to help prevent damage caused by future disasters.
Nearly 100 additional amendments were offered to cut or offset money included in the underlying bill and Frelinghuysen amendment, including one to strike $133 million for improved weather forecasting equipment and satellites.
“While my heart goes out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, it is unacceptable for Congress to use this disaster as a justification for passing a bill chock-full of pork barrel spending,” Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., wrote in a statement Monday afternoon. “My amendments to the bill simply and reasonably eliminate funding for any pet projects that are unrelated to emergencies brought on by Hurricane Sandy.”
The House Rules committee determined that most of the 94 amendments were not made in order, but 13 amendments survived and will face a vote on Tuesday as well.
Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat from New York, said she is worried that amending the legislation could complicate its passage in the Senate, which voted to approve the president’s request on Dec. 28. The Senate-passed bill expired after the House refused to consider the legislation before the 112th session of Congress ended earlier this month.
Lowey said she was “deeply concerned” that too many changes to the underlying legislation would “constitute filibuster by amendment, or any number of small reduction amendments making for death by a thousand cuts.”
“While there are some provisions I would modify if I could, my first concern is seeing this legislation promptly enacted,” Lowey stated.
Congress has already approved $9.7 billion for flood insurance on Jan. 4. The House also passed a separate bill without opposition on Monday evening, the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, to speed up and streamline federal disaster recovery programs.
After the House voted on the “fiscal cliff” deal on Jan. 1, House Speaker John Boehner decided not to vote on any relief during the 112th Congress. Republicans and Democrats from the region revolted until Boehner held a private meeting with angry Republican members, during which he promised to make Sandy relief a priority in the 113th Congress.
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