* CBO estimates slow spending pace for aid, $9 bln in 2013
* Republicans argue for initial smaller bill
* First votes on Senate aid bill expected this week
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 U.S. Senate Democrats are
moving quickly to push through the Obama administration's full
request for $60.4 billion in emergency aid for Superstorm Sandy,
but a growing number of Republicans are arguing for a smaller
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of its
bill on Wednesday, which seeks to aid East Coast states hit hard
when Sandy came ashore on Oct 29. Democratic aides said they are
working towards final passage of the measure by early next week.
The quick turnaround effort appeared aimed at gaining the
initiative over Republicans who want a slower, more cautious
approach, passing appropriations only as the money is needed.
The Congressional Budget Office, in a new report on Obama's
$60.4 billion request, estimated that only about $8.97 billion
of the total would be spent in 2013, with another $12.66 billion
spent in 2014 and $11.59 billion spent in 2015.
"That means there's very little reason to pass the whole
thing now - especially since there hasn't been a single hearing
on this request," a senior Republican aide said.
The $60.4 billion request is "more money than the annual
budgets for the departments of Interior, Labor, Treasury and
Transportation combined," the aide added, noting those budgets
are subject to multiple hearings.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said on Tuesday that
Obama's Sandy request was simply "too much."
"At $60 billion? In this time when we're trying to solve the
deficit problem?" he told reporters.
The resistance could put the Sandy aid bill at risk of
becoming a pawn in the tense negotiations over the year-end
"fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts,
although members of both parties have said it is essential for
Congress to approve new disaster relief funds before the end of
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief
fund now has less than $5 billion available.
The amount in the Senate bill is considerably less than the
$82 billion in aid requested by New York, New Jersey and
Connecticut, the states that bore the brunt of damage from the
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, was in
Washington last week, lobbying lawmakers for the larger amount.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said a procedural vote on
the measure in the Democratic-controlled Senate could take place
by Thursday, clearing the way for a final vote as early as
The Appropriations Committee in the Republican-controlled
House of Representatives is still analyzing the Obama request
and is considering moving a bill to address immediate needs
The damage to New York and New Jersey coastal areas was on a
scale not seen since Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast
and flooded New Orleans in 2005. Two weeks after that storm hit,
Congress had approved $62.3 billion in emergency appropriations.
Lawmakers passed numerous subsequent emergency funding
requests over several years to cover Katrina damage that topped