* Republicans seek $27 bln for immediate needs, $33 bln for
* Senate $60.4 bln package expires if House fails to act by
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Dec 31 The U.S. House of
Representatives is expected to split a $60.4 billion Superstorm
Sandy disaster aid bill into two parts, staging votes on $27
billion to fund immediate recovery needs and $33 billion for
long-term and other projects, Republican lawmakers and aides
said on Monday.
The plan for votes on Tuesday or Wednesday would meet the
demands of many Republican lawmakers to vote on a smaller
initial package of aid for victims of the Oct. 29 storm that
devastated New York and New Jersey coastlines.
But the House plan still provides members from those states
an opportunity to try to drum up support for the full aid
package approved by the Senate last week. Details emerged after
a House Republican caucus meeting on Monday.
"There's going to be two votes, unless the plan changes -
one at $27 billion and one at $33 billion," said Representative
Steven LaTourette, a member of the appropriations committee who
will retire from Congress when it adjourns on Wednesday.
Should the House fail to pass a Sandy bill by then, the
Senate's $60.4 billion measure would expire, and the new
Congress that gets sworn in on Thursday would have to start over
with new legislation, further delaying the disaster funds.
"If we get into the next Congress, you have to hit the reset
button," said Representative Jon Runyan, a New Jersey Republican
who added that the Sandy aid package has been largely drowned
out in recent days by negotiations over the "fiscal cliff" tax
hikes and spending cuts set to kick in starting on Tuesday.
"We're doing everything we can to keep this in the
forefront," Runyan added.
Many Republicans in Congress say that the Sandy aid bill
contains billions of dollars in spending on projects unrelated
to damage caused by the storm or for long-term infrastructure
improvements that should compete with other discretionary
Among expenditures criticized was $150 million to rebuild
fisheries, including those in the Gulf Coast and Alaska,
thousands of miles from Sandy's devastation, and $2 million to
repair roof damage that pre-dates the storm on Smithsonian
Institution buildings in Washington.
There were few details on which expenditures would be
considered immediate disaster needs that would go into the $27
billion portion of the House measure, which is likely to win
Senate Republicans tried a similar approach, proposing to
shrink the $60.4 billion package to $24 billion for near-term
projects, but this was defeated in the Democratic-controlled
Aides said the New York and New Jersey delegations were
working to drum up support for the full package. An aide to a
New York area Republican congressman said there appeared to be
sufficient Republican support for passage.
Democrats, including New York and New Jersey senators, have
argued that long-term rebuilding projects such as tunnel
repairs, would be delayed if the full funding was not approved.
They say that businesses would not start to rebuild if they were
not confident of reimbursement.