Senators want Obama to request more disaster funding for Hurricane Sandy

Senators from states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday wrote to President Obama asking him to request increased disaster funding from Congress.

Such a request is seen as a necessary first step for any action from Congress to address Sandy's devastation.

The members of the New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island delegations want Obama to request more disaster relief funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

They also call for “funding for critical disaster relief programs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Economic Development Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration."

“The amendment should also include funding for damage to federal assets in our states and expenses for federal agencies, where appropriate,” the letter states.

FEMA’s disaster relief fund was stocked with $7.1 billion at the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. Under the August 2011 debt-ceiling deal, it can be given $5 billion more without needing to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere or tax increases. Higher funding could require a revision to the debt-ceiling deal's budget cap.

House Republicans have said that until the administration and FEMA requests more money, it is not appropriate to move a supplemental appropriations bill providing more funding.

The supplemental spending bill will have to originate in the House according to congressional rules.

A Senate Democratic appropriations staffer on Tuesday indicated more spending has the support of Senate Democrats once the House acts. 

"We recognize that the tragedy will require additional resources and we will plan to work with the Administration and all Members on meeting those needs once requirements have been determined," the staffer said.

The senators' letter doesn’t specify a funding level, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has sought $30 billion in disaster aid for his state alone. Total economic damage from Hurricane Sandy has been estimated to be as much as $50 billion, according to the monitoring group Eqecat.

The letter was signed by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

This story was updated at 4:18 p.m.