House GOP eyes smaller Sandy bill

House Republicans are discussing an aid package to provide relief to states damaged by Hurricane Sandy that is much smaller than the $60 billion the Senate passed on Friday, congressional officials said.  

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) met with Republican members of the New York and New Jersey delegations on Sunday, telling them he was committed to helping the region while offering no assurances of an immediate vote.  

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Republican officials said the House was considering a package in the area of $27 billion, which is slightly higher than an alternative proposal that Senate Republicans floated last week.  

Lawmakers are facing pressure from both Republican and Democratic leaders in the states hit by Sandy to quickly approve a relief package, but conservatives have criticized the Senate bill for containing extraneous spending unrelated to the hurricane that devastated the Northeast in October.  

After the Senate acted, Govs. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York issued a rare joint statement calling for the House to immediately follow suit.  

Cantor told members of the delegations he wants to act “as soon as possible,” an aide said, but it was unclear whether a bill would come to the floor before the 112th Congress ends on Wednesday.  

It appears unlikely, however, that the House would simply pass the Senate bill without changes.  

“Everyone is in agreement there is a lot of bad stuff in what the Senate passed,” the aide said.  

Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said an appropriation of around $27 billion would be “nowhere close to rectifying the problem.”  

“I believe we should put the Senate bill on the House floor and let the majority work its will,” Andrews said.  

Republican Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said leaders were looking at “what levels of accountability could be put in to make sure we don’t see a Katrina-type situation occur again,” referring to reports of widespread fraud after the hurricane that ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.