Coats to introduce $24 billion alternative Sandy emergency-funding package

“We came up with a proposal that totals around $24 billion,” Coats said on the floor Wednesday evening. “The concept behind this of course is to be as careful as we can with the taxpayers’ dollars.”

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Coats said that level of funding would give Congress until March 27 to review the other “mitigation” requests and unrelated disaster-funding requests in the Democrats’ bill.

“I’m not suggesting that everything in the proposal, this $60.4 billion, is not necessary,” Coats said. “I’m simply saying give us some time, at least these three months to allow our committees to look through this.”

Democrats have argued that the funding is long overdue since the storm was weeks ago. In October, Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast hard, affecting several states and their infrastructure.

“All of us are sensitive to the pain and damage incurred by the catastrophic Hurricane that hit that sector of our country just weeks ago,” Coats said. “Clearly it’s an emergency.”

The Obama administration has called for a $60.4 billion package and the Senate version fulfills that request. Republicans have questioned why there is some money for things such as Head Start centers, transportation improvements and park clean up, among others. Coats said committees should be allowed to have hearings to see if those projects are all really necessary.

Coats used flood insurance as an example of an “immediate need” that his alternative proposal fully funds. His bill would also significantly reduce the amount of money that would go to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Amtrak and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He said he hopes the Senate holds a vote on his alternative soon.

The Senate is continuing amendment work on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he wants to finish work on the bill this week, while House Republicans have said they want to take a longer look at the president's proposal to make sure there isn't any unnecessary spending.