House Republicans Getting Ready To Stall Sandy Aid?

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 11 2013 12:29 PM

Are House Republicans Getting Ready To Stall Sandy Aid?

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A man stands before the remains of the Long Beach boardwalk, which was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Today is the deadline for amendments to the Superstorm Sandy relief bill that the House will consider next week, which, when all is said and done, is expected to give about $50 billion in relief aid to recovery efforts in the Northeast. While there are only three amendments proposed to the bill so far, speculation on what it'll take to get the GOP to vote for it have some wondering if a swift passage is possible. An increasing number of Republicans insist on tying Sandy aid to spending cuts, an issue that has already caused political embarassment, points out Bloomberg. Although Congress doesn't traditionally require offset budget savings for disaster relief, the insistence on the issue by some Republicans highlights to what extremes some lawmakers are willing to go to prevent an increase in the deficit.

“Emergency bills like this should not come to the floor without offsets to pay for it or structural reforms,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said.

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Thanks to bipartisan support from New York and New Jersey, legislators only need to secure five more votes in the House to ensure the Sandy aid bill's passage, as the Daily News reported earlier this week.

Right now, the House bill only provides $17 billion in relief, a stark contrast to the $60 billion relief package passed by the Senate. But as Politico reports, House leadership intends to increase that amount with a series of moves designed to get as many GOPers on board as possible:

The House leadership plan would go like this: First, the House plans to call up a bill by Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that totals $27 billion in relief. Then, it will immediately amend the bill to deduct the $9.7 billion in flood relief passed before Congress recessed — bringing the bill's total to $17 billion.
Amendments will be allowed — including spending reduction amendments — and then the House will vote on passage of the Rogers amendment. This would set up $17 billion to be sent to the Senate.
But then leadership will allow Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) to offer an amendment that offers an additional $33 billion. Republicans think this can pass as well.

The final House package, combined with the nearly $10 billion passed in flood relief last week, would take the amount of federal post-Sandy aid back up to about $60 billion. The Hill has a breakdown of where that funding would go here.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) is the only House member to offer amendments so far, including a proposal for a 1.63 percent spending cut for all discretionary federal programs. The two offset amendments would essentially make any House-approved bill containing them DOA in the Senate, but, as the Hill explains, the idea that Sandy aid should be offset isn't exactly popular in the House right now, even among Republicans.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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