House might split Sandy aid for votes

The House might vote Tuesday on two bills that would provide emergency spending to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, GOP lawmakers said.

The Senate last week passed a $60.4 billion Sandy relief package, but many Republicans consider the bill bloated even though the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut asked for $80 billion. 

Members said that the House is looking at splitting the Senate bill into components for votes on New Year's Day. Senior GOP aides cautioned that the plan is not final.

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There would be a vote on a $27 billion package of essential spending to meet immediate needs, and a vote on a separate, $33 billion bill, appropriator Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) told reporters.

"This allows us to see how much support there is for the rest of the package," another lawmaker said.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is whipping Republicans to support the $33 billion bill, members said.

LaTourette, a close ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the House would come into session at noon for possible action on the Sandy bills. 

The Sandy relif package that passed the Senate included spending to prevent future storms and upgrade transportation systems, along with spending on disasters other than Hurricane Sandy. 

The $27 billion Sandy bill would likely resemble a Senate Republican alternative amendment sponsored by Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) that was defeated in a 41-54 vote. 

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) expressed confidence that the $27 billion aid bill could pass the House, but said support for the second slice is less certain.

"We can count on 14 Republicans," from the northeast for the $33 billion bill, Israel said. He warned that Democrats would be less reluctant to support aid for future disasters if they feel that the New York area gets short-shrifted on Sandy.

The House could also vote Tuesday on a 30-day bill to avert a possible doubling in milk prices known as the "milk cliff." The bill is getting more traction than alternative bills that would also extend other expired farm subsidies. House leaders have prepared a one-year and four-month extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired on Sept. 30. 

House members are still unsure of when any deal to avert the $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to hit Jan. 1 could come over from the Senate. 

— This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.