Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote next week on the remaining $50.7 billion in Sandy aid, after $9.7 billion in flood insurance funds cleared Congress last week.
Members are expected to say yea or nay to a split package put together by the House appropriations committee. A vote on a widely-supported bill for $17 billion in relief and recovery will be preceded by an amendment for $33.7 billion in mitigation and non-Sandy disaster relief spending criticized by conservatives as wasteful spending.
The House bill still contains a number of controversial items first highlighted in the bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate last month, including $15 million dollars to rehabilitate farm and ranch land and $23 million to help private land owners plant trees on their property that don’t carry specific Sandy-related language.
House Republicans supporting the aid package say this spending has been scrubbed of pork. A spokesperson for New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuyse, who sponsored the bill, said everything proposed is either Sandy-related or otherwise disaster-related.
But critics continue to insist the process is essentially a government spending splurge.
“In some places they’ve tried to limit where the funding is going, to make it more targeted towards Sandy, but there is clearly funding in here that is not Sandy-related,” said Stephen Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “Part of the reason people want to get money into this bill is because it is outside of the budget caps that they all agreed to — it as seen as free money.”
Ellis also says that past disaster spending, such as after Hurricane Katrina, came in smaller amounts as needed.
"The proponents behind this bill are trying to get the whole enchilada, all at one time, rather than parsing it out and doing it in a more responsible fashion,” he said.
Records show that within two weeks of Katrina, Congress passed two funding measures — one for nearly $10 billion in the immediate aftermath and an additional $53 billion days later. Additional funding followed.
The Congressional delegations of New York and New Jersey continue to push for the whole Sandy enchilada. House Republican members from the states hardest-hit by the storm believe they are looking at less than a dozen votes needed to get the amendment passed when it comes to the floor.