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Senate Weighs Cut In Storm Aid

Source: Dow Jones

Posted on 19 Dec 2012 by Neilson

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Senate and Sandy aidSenate Republicans are mulling a pared-down aid package aimed at helping Northeastern states rebuild after superstorm Sandy, a potential blow to efforts by governors and lawmakers from the region who want Congress to pass a $60.4 billion spending bill by the end of the year.

GOP senators expressed skepticism about passing such a large bill Tuesday after they met for their weekly lunch. Democrats need at least eight Republican votes to ensure passage of the supplemental spending bill, which they hope to achieve by the end of the year.

"My view is there should be multiple [spending bills] here that would be much more certain about the money that needs to be spent," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), a member both of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the GOP leadership team.

Mr. Blunt said that his party was weighing crafting a bill that would support disaster relief needs through March, when an existing government-budget bill expires, or through the federal government's fiscal year, which runs through September 2013.

He said that otherwise, lawmakers would be left "guessing" how much money would be needed to address various rebuilding projects over the next several years.

Lawmakers and their aides view passage of a Sandy aid package in the Democrat-controlled Senate as crucial to putting pressure on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to bring a similar measure to the floor.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he wasn't open to reducing the spending bill's size and expressed confidence in its passage.

"We'll get enough votes because there's enough sympathy from people in disaster-prone areas," he said. "We are not going to go sit down with someone and cut it further." Mr. Schumer rejected GOP charges that money should only be appropriated to meet immediate needs, saying that would prevent state and local governments from planning long-term rebuilding projects.

Advocates for the bill are hoping to cobble together enough Republican votes by appealing to moderates and those from areas like the Gulf Coast that have needed extra funding after disasters and are likely to need it again.