House GOP sets Friday amendment deadline for $50.7B Sandy relief package

The base part of the Sandy package is H.R. 152, sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). That $17 billion bill includes $5.4 billion to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, another $5.4 billion to help the transit authorities in New York and New Jersey, $3.9 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help with rebuilding, and $1.45 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers.

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The $33.7 billion amendment to Roger's bill is being offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.). Most of the amendment, $19.8 billion worth, would help fund the repair of roads and bridges hit by Sandy.

In addition, the amendment provides $6.5 billion for Department of Homeland Security disaster relief, $4 billion to fund Army Corps of Engineers efforts, and $1.17 billion to repair Department of Interior buildings affected by the storm.

It would also authorize $513 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve severe weather forecasts and warnings, and $651 million in funding for the Small Business Administration's Disaster Loan Program.

Of the entire $50.7 billion package, just $3.4 billion will have to be offset by cuts to discretionary programs elsewhere. The Frelinghuysen amendment includes language to that effect, matching language in the Senate's Sandy relief bill.

Language designating $3.4 billion in Army Corps of Engineer funding as non-emergency spending made it into the Senate bill after Republicans successfully raised a budget point of order on that section of the bill.

While most of the Sandy package is new spending that is not offset, Republican sponsors of the package said it is needed to begin the effort of rebuilding in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut after Sandy.

"Given the size and scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that Congress provide the victims of this storm and their communities with the necessary federal aid as soon as possible," Rogers said of his bill.

Frelinghuysen also noted that unlike the Senate bill, his amendment only provides funding for projects relating to Hurricane Sandy. Republicans in both the House and the Senate bristled at the Senate bill for its inclusion of projects that had nothing to do with Sandy cleanup, such as relief for droughts and fires across the country.

"I am optimistic about the prospect of passage of my amendment to provide $33 billion in additional funding when the House takes up the emergency supplemental," Frelinghuysen said last week. "The Appropriations Committee has 'scrubbed' the proposal: the funding is 'Sandy-related,' it contains no earmarks, no state-specific provisions unrelated to the storm."

Questions about adding to the budget deficit prompted 67 Republicans to oppose last week's Sandy relief bill, which allowed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to increase its borrowing authority by $9.7 billion to deal with Sandy claims. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was one of those "no" votes, and said reform of the NFIP program is needed.

"It would be irresponsible to raise an insolvent program's debt ceiling without making the necessary reforms," he said.

Last week's bill called for a temporary increase in borrowing authority for the NFIP, by amending current law that gives the NFIP to take on debt, but not beyond September 30, 2017.

All told, the NFIP bill plus the Rogers-Frelinghuysen package totals $60.4 billion in Sandy-related aid, the same overall size as the legislation the Senate approved at the end of the 112th Congress.

— This story was updated at 11:59 a.m.