There’s another showdown between the White House and Congress — this one over disaster relief funds for communities hit by Superstorm Sandy.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has unveiled a new $60.4 billion bill that would help pay for recovery efforts after Sandy. The funding request is part of an existing military and veterans affairs bill, thus allowing the House and Senate to consider the bill at the same time. However, Republicans in both chambers say the President and Democrats have not provided enough evidence that the full $60 billion is needed.
“Can I verbalize that stinky look on my face?” asked Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) earlier this week, as he talked about the bill.
One House aide suggested that Congress “wait a few months” before deploying the emergency funds. From The Hill:
“It wasn’t an official bill request … it didn’t have the justifying documents,” a House aide said. “They said they did not have time to complete the justification … why don’t we wait a few months so they can do that?”
GOP aides are researching whether specific requests for billions in aid across a variety of agencies are needed. Their work could take into next week.
Democrats said the GOP complaints were without merit.
Matt Dennis, a spokesman for incoming House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said that the request is “entirely typical of justifications associated with emergency requests, which by definition cannot wait a few months.”
“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.”
The biggest pieces of the Sandy relief bill feature $17 billion for housing development and $11 billion for transportation fixes. It also includes nearly $10 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program. The $60.4 billion is $20 billion less than what governors were asking.
One of the big hangups is how to pay for the relief. Many Republicans are threatening to block disaster funds unless they are offset elsewhere in the budget.
Another important factor — one that is not getting much play in the current showdown over recovery spending — is whether funds would be used for climate resiliency. The Sandy recovery bill does allude to climate change, but only loosely: “In carrying out activities funded by this title that involve repairing, rebuilding, or restoring infrastructure and restoring land, project sponsors shall consider, where appropriate, the increased risks and vulnerabilities associated with future extreme weather events, sea level rise and coastal flooding.”