Sandy aid package moving toward House votes

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013

Northeast lawmakers said passage of the Mulvaney amendment could complicate prospects for quick action on the broader Sandy aid package in the Senate, which passed a $60.4 billion aid package with bipartisan support that does not have offsetting spending cuts.

Other amendments set for floor debate would cut $150 million for Regional Ocean Partnership Grants, $13 million for the National Weather Service ground readiness project, $1 million for the Legal Services Corporation and $9.8 million for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, planned votes on both the $17 billion base bill and the Frelinghuysen proposal for $33.7 billion more. He's responding both to conservatives who are opposed to more deficit spending, and to pointed criticism from Govs. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., and Chris Christie, R-N.J., who are fuming because the House hasn't acted sooner.

Boehner decided on New Year's Day to delay a scheduled vote after House Republicans rebelled over a bill allowing taxes to rise on families making more than $450,000 a year because it included only meager spending cuts. Christie called the speaker's action "disgusting."

The Senate's $60.4 billion bill on Sandy relief expired with the previous Congress on Jan. 3. But about $9.7 billion was money for replenishing the government's flood insurance fund to help pay Sandy victims, and Congress approved that separately earlier this month. Whatever emerges from the House this week is scheduled for debate in the Senate next week after President Barack Obama's second inauguration.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent about $3.1 billion in disaster relief money for shelters, restoring power and other immediate needs after the Oct. 29 storm pounded the Atlantic Coast with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit.

Sandy is the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was blamed for 140 deaths. The storm damaged or destroyed 305,000 housing units in New York and more than 265,000 businesses were disrupted there, officials have said. In New Jersey, more than 346,000 households were destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 families remain living out of their homes, according to officials.

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Associated Press reporter Alan Fram contributed to this report.