The $60.4 billion emergency-aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims that the Senate has passed now faces an uncertain, final vote in the Republican-controlled House, which has expressed a desire to pass a less-expensive bill in the final days of the lame duck session.
The measure passed the Democrat-controlled Senate on Friday by a 62-32 vote, after Republicans failed to pass amendments that would have cut the package to $24 billion.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that only about $9 billion of the $60.4 billion would be spent over the next nine months.
The House is scheduled to return at 2 p.m. Sunday and was expected to vote on the bill. However, a vote Sunday on the bill was not listed on the chamber's legislative agenda that was post Saturday afternoon.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has said Congress should probably begin with a smaller aid package for immediate recovery needs and wait until more information can be collected about storm damage before approving additional money next year.
The late-October storm hammed the East Coast for several days, killing at 120 people. The flooding, high winds and pounding surf stretched from North Carolina to Maine -- with New York, New Jersey and Connecticut hit hardest.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and a leading House fiscal conservative, has criticized the Democratic bill as "packed with funding for unrelated items” such as commercial fisheries in American Samoa and roof repair of museums in Washington.
Senate Republicans tried to strip commercial fisheries and other non-immediate funding from their chamber’s bill.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., also targeted the fisheries disaster funding, unsuccessfully proposing an amendment to cut $150 million that could go to Alaska, the Gulf Coast and New England states.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urged House leaders to quickly bring the Senate bill to the chamber floor to allow a vote.
He also the Senate bill provides "very good groundwork" for seeking Sandy aid next year, should the House vote against the legislation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also urged House leaders to allow a vote.
"Our fellow Americans are waiting for relief to rebuild their homes, businesses, communities and lives,” the California Democrat said. “Now that the Senate has acted … the House must do the same immediately.”
The measure includes $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's chief disaster relief fund and $17 billion for community development block grants, much of which would help homeowners repair or replace their homes. Another $11.7 billion would help repair New York City's subways and other mass transit damage and protect them from future storms. Some $9.7 billion would go toward the government's flood insurance program. The Army Corps of Engineers would receive $5.3 billion to mitigate flood future risks and rebuild damaged projects.
If only $9 billion would be needed right now, it sounds like wise financial management to allow only the $24 billion that is estimated for now and not the $60.4 billion. Allow only as needed as this makes it more certain that it will be used where intended instead of suddenly having a large part of it go somewhere else and never be available where intended. This is a problem our Government seems to have, more pointedly the Democratic Party; that they ask for the world, get it and before it is said and done, only a limited amount of the money has actually been spent where specified and the remainder squandred or misused in other areas.
They could even grant less as if only $9 billion is needed right now, pass that amount be allowed and then if more is needed later, come back and ask Congress for it then.