House GOP bill halves Sandy relief

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled legislation to provide $27 billion in emergency relief to pay for Hurricane Sandy damage — less than half the $60.4 billion in aid passed by the Senate last week. 

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The bill was released by the Appropriations Committee before noon. An amendment will be allowed to increase the funding by $33 billion to match the Senate total, however. 

That second slice of funding contains money to prepare for future storms and upgrade infrastructure. Supporters claim the measure will pay for itself in the long run by allowing better planning of repairs and preventing massive clean-up in the future. 

Northeast Republicans, led by Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), are scrambling to find the votes for that amendment by the time the House votes, as early as today. 

The amendment will be introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the spending cardinal in charge of energy and water projects. 

In a key victory for Democrats, the base bill does not contain the spending cut offsets demanded by conservatives for disaster aid in the past. 

"It is a fundamental responsibility to help families, businesses, and communities recover and rebuild following a natural disaster. I am pleased the House will consider emergency relief for those affected by Sandy, and I am working hard to ensure passage of the full $60.4 billion, as passed by the Senate," said incoming Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

The $33 billion amendment requires that $3.5 billion in Army Corps of Engineer funding be offset in 2013 appropriations. 

This requirement was included in the Senate bill after a successful budget challenge was raised on the floor and, if passed, will further complicate spending talks in March when Congress tries to avert a government shutdown after a stopgap spending resolution runs out. 

"Given the size and scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that Congress provide the victims of this storm and their communities with the necessary federal aid as soon as possible,” said Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). “However, as we embark on these recovery efforts, it is essential that Congress make responsible decisions to get the most out of each and every recovery dollar.”

The bill includes new oversight provisions compared to the Senate version, the committee said. It includes more money $9.7 billion to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program — than a Senate Republican alternative that failed on the Senate floor. That bill cost some $24 billion in total.

According to the committee, the base bill provides the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund with $5.4 billion, provides $5.4 billion in relief for New York-area transit agencies, $3.9 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Community Development Fund and $1.35 billion for the Army Corps.

The timing on the vote depends on resolving the "fiscal cliff." 

If the House is able to quickly pass the Senate bill on Tuesday it could then move to deal with Sandy, a GOP source said. House Republicans were conferencing in the early afternoon on whether to accept a Senate budget agreement passed early Tuesday.


—Updated at 1 p.m.