Sandy package faces big test Tuesday in HouseBy Tom Brune
January 15, 2013
WASHINGTON -- The $51 billion recovery package for superstorm Sandy faces a big test Tuesday as the House takes it up for debate, amendments and a vote that will determine its size and scope.
The legislation that emerges from what could be a lengthy and testy process in the House on Tuesday will determine whether the Senate later this month OKs it or makes changes that would require it to return to the House.
"It's going to be a long day tomorrow," Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Monday evening. "Any time you have votes on 10 or 15 amendments, it takes a long time and people get worn out."
To underline the importance of Tuesday's vote, a group of about 100 Long Island residents, including Nassau Executive Edward Mangano and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone, will travel to Washington Tuesday in an effort to rally Congress to vote yes.
A contingent of residents from hard-hit Island Park will leave about 6 a.m. after a news conference at the village train station, the executives said in a statement. The vote "will have a pervasive effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents" in the New York area, a spokeswoman for Mangano said in a statement.
The legislation, which includes a $17 billion base bill and a $33.7 billion amendment, will come to the floor at noon Tuesday, along with a dozen other amendments culled from a list of proposals that had grown to 92.
Monday night, King said again that he thinks he has the votes to beat back the amendments and to pass the entire package by early evening.
"I think we can survive the amendments. I think we can defeat them all," he said.
One key amendment would require that the $17 billion base bill be paid for by an across-the-board cut of 1.63 percent to all discretionary spending for the rest of this fiscal year.
The other amendments all seek to change the $33.7 billion additional funding, mostly with reductions but also with a few that would add money.
Republican amendments would strike $150 million for the Regional Ocean Partnership grants, $13 million to speed up a National Weather Service project, $9.8 million to rebuild sea walls at a Connecticut wildlife refuge and $1 million for the Legal Services Corporation to help the poor hurt by Sandy.
Two amendments by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) would increase community development block grant funding by $25 million and add $1 million to repair veterans' cemeteries damaged by Sandy.
On Monday, during the Rules Committee hearing on which amendments would be included, New York and New Jersey lawmakers stressed the need for the measure, citing the damage and continuing suffering from the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina.
"It's time to deliver long-overdue emergency assistance for victims of superstorm Sandy without further delay or dysfunction," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Fairport), the top Democrat on House Rules Committee. "Instead of simply considering a clean measure, the majority has submitted over 45 amendments to the Rules Committee to cut, hinder or offset the aid found in this package."
But Republicans, who proposed a range of amendments to cut, shrink or alter the package, insisted it was done in the name of fiscal responsibility.
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), a committee member, said his constituents found it hard to believe that New York and New Jersey needed as much as $60 billion when his state's budget is less than $20 billion.