The Senate is prepared to take up the president’s request for $60.4 billion in emergency aid for the states hit by Superstorm Sandy. But Republicans in the Senate are questioning the amount requested, and House Republicans have signaled they’re prepared to let the matter slide into next year.
A unnamed senior House Republican aide told the Wall Street Journal that the amount they are considering will be “far smaller” than the president’s request. He suggested that some of the funding requested doesn’t meet the definition of “immediate aid.”
More than six weeks have passed since the storm battered the mid-Atlantic region. Less than a month after Hurricane Katrina, a Republican Congress had passed and President Bush had signed $62.3 billion in relief.
The request has bipartisan support from New Jersey Republican Chris Christie and New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo, both of whom are near personal approval highs in polls for their handling of the storm. Local officials want the funding voted while the storm’s memory remains fresh.
Roughly $5-6 billion is available for immediate use based on current budgeting, but local officials say more is needed.
The details of the request — which include billions to rebuild New York’s mass-transit system and other local infrastructure — were laid out in a 77-page letter to Congress, but Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, is not satisfied with the proposal.
“Who’s analyzed this? Nobody to my knowledge has in a very sophisticated way laid out a plan,” Sessions said.
The senator would like to pass pass a smaller amount now and wait a few months for the justification for the rest.
The spokesman for incoming House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Matt Dennis, said the request is typical of emergency measures that require immediate reaction.
“Homeowners, families, and small businesses cannot wait a few months for Congress to respond to severe need created by Sandy,” he said. “They need help now.”
Wednesday night, an all-star lineup of musicians performing at Madison Square Garden raised at least $30 million for the victims — an impressive amount that will not even equal 1 percent of what the White House and governors believe is necessary to rebuild in a way that prepares for the next storm.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Wayne Parry