House conservatives demand offsets for Hurricane Sandy aid

House conservatives are wasting no time in demanding that emergency spending for Hurricane Sandy be offset by spending cuts to the rest of the budget.

The White House on Friday requested Congress to pass a $60.4 billion bill to pay for damage resulting from Sandy.

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Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders have so far been mum on whether they will demand spending cuts to match. 

The right wing members of the House conference are not waiting to make their feelings known.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said she will need to see offsets on Wednesday as did Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

“We have these emergencies every year and we should prepare for that in our budget,” Labrador said.

“No pun intended, we should have a rainy day fund,” Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) said. 

The August 2011 debt deal allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund to have up to $11 billion this year in extra funds for a disaster, but this money is not enough for the historic damage cause by Sandy according to the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he will be looking for offsets for at least some of the spending and indicated he is not comfortable with the White House request that state and local governments contribute less than 25 percent of the cost of repairs. 

He said a lot of Hurricane Katrina money was wasted. 

“We saw a lot of money that was spent down in Louisiana that should not have been, we saw a lot of blank checks that should not have been written,” King said. “I am going to look for offsets as well, but I can see some circumstances where they won’t be needed if the proper restraints are in place.”

The Senate is poised to act as soon as Thursday on a Sandy bill. 

“I think the Senate has shown how curious they are about spending money in a careful fashion,” joked appropriator Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). He said the Appropriations Committee's scrubbing of the request could take days and it is not yet clear how big a final House bill will be. 

“It is the tendency of any administration to over-pack a supplemental with stimulus type and maintenance type program money. We want to try to get that out,” he said. “As you know we are scrubbing it right now and there are things in there such as $2 million to repair the Smithsonian roof that probably didn’t happen because of Sandy.”

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) indicated he is resigned to the Senate moving first but said he would not put a House bill forward until each part of the request is thoroughly checked. 

“That’s the Senate. They do their thing, we do our thing,” he said. “We are scrubbing the numbers, looking at the justifications, being sure we are dealing with the results of the hurricane and not other causes. It’s going to take some time.”