The Sticking Points in the Sandy Aid Bill
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Since being introduced Monday, the Sandy supplemental aid package has been pilloried by conservative groups and senate Republicans for what they say is wasteful and unnecessary spending.
On Wednesday, Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana submitted a Republican version of the bill, which lopped off nearly $40 billion from the White House-based proposal.
Among the spending items Republicans would like to see nixed:
- $25.1 million to repair and rehabilitate farm and ranch land. Republicans note that the spending is for non-Sandy related relief efforts. Democrats say the supplemental represents the best opportunity to fund much-needed emergency programs.
- $150 million for fishery disasters declared by the Secretary of Commerce in FY2012. Republicans would like to see this non-Sandy related spending disappear. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts—a supporter of the aid—said the Sandy aid package won’t pass “without the inclusion of this fishery money—point-blank and period."
- $2 million for repairs to the roof of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Critics say this is simply an indirect way of funding regular repair work. “We had 65 mile-per-hour winds in DC and there were a number of Smithsonian facilities that were damaged and they’re federal buildings,” noted one Democratic senate aide. “So, are you not going to fix them?”
- $15 million for NASA facilities. Another Republicans-said/Democrats-said: Republicans claim Sandy only caused minor damage to NASA facilities in Florida, while Democrats say the funding covers the actual cost of the damage.
- $274 million for Amtrak repairs. Republicans say the majority of the money is for the Gateway Tunnel project, which would add an additional tube under the Hudson, and thus not in need of emergency aid. Democrats counter that the money will help guard against future disasters.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Friday. If it passes, it will head to the House, where many of the same calls for cuts are expected to be heard.