House GOP faces more choices about whether to offset Sandy spending

Just 10 days ago, the House relented and called up a bill allowing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to go $9.7 billion more into debt to deal with Hurricane Sandy, with no offsetting spending cuts. And this week, the House is expected to pass another bill that could total $50 billion in additional aid.

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Before getting there, however, leaders will have to figure out what to do with several Republicans amendments that seek to offset the cost of this bill. The House Rules Committee meets this afternoon to decide which of these amendments will be made in order.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has proposed an amendment that would offset the cost of the main $17 billion Sandy aid bill with cuts to all foreign aid except aid that goes to Israel and Pakistan. He has a similar amendment that would offset an amendment that would add another $33.7 billion in aid to the bill.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has an amendment that would require all spending in the $17 billion bill to be treated as non-emergency spending that would be subject to discretionary spending caps.

Two members have proposed across-the-board cuts. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has two ideas — offset the $17 billion bill either with a 1.63 percent cut to discretionary programs, or by cutting transit subsidies to federal workers, direct farm aid, and ending TARP spending.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) proposes a 3.2 percent cut to non-defense discretionary programs to offset the $17 billion base bill.

Among the offset amendments are several others that try to strike millions and even billions of dollars' worth of spending in the bill. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) has filed amendments that would cut out $22 billion in spending, nearly half the size of the entire package.

Even if the Rules Committee makes them in order, these amendments appear to face an uphill climb in the House later in the week. Several dozen Republicans seem certain to back them, but that leaves a majority of Republicans and probably every Democrat left to vote them down.

Earlier this month, the House voted 354-67 in favor of the bill extending the NFIP's debt by $9.7 billion — similar margins could be seen on amendments to either cut or offset the bill.

The extension of the NFIP's debt limit is the subject of one amendment from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). His amendment would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to detail all the actions it will take to pay the NFIP debt down in 10 years.

The NFIP bill passed 10 days ago allows the program to go into debt up to $30.425 billion, up from $20.725 billion. Under current law, the NFIP is allowed to take on debt through the end of fiscal 2017.