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New Jersey News

Sandy Aid Debate Heats Up in the House

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This weekend, in several towns hit hard by Sandy in both New York and New Jersey, residents turned out at impromptu "Walk A Mile In Our Shoes" rallies aimed at keeping pressure on Washington to pass the $50.7 billion dollar relief bill.

Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson told MSNBC he was still hopeful the aid package would pass the House Tuesday. He said Asbury Park had already borrowed money to get repairs underway assuming the Federal aid would come through.

"We in Asbury Park are already ten million dollars in the deep," Johnson said. "We can't wait for leadership from Washington. The summer season is our bread and butter."

On Monday, the House Rules Committee will set the terms of the debate for Tuesday's vote on the long awaited $51 billion dollar Sandy relief measure.

The package is made up of two bills: a $17 billion bill sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) that is targeted to pay for immediate Sandy response costs and a $33 billion dollar spending measure from Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) that includes more long term mitigation and infrastructure projects.

By late Friday 70 proposed amendments were filed to the bills, many of them generated by Tea Party Republicans who want to leverage the Sandy package to force cuts in unrelated discretionary spending.

New Jersey Republican Chris Smith says further delay will make it harder for shore towns to be ready for tourists by Memorial Day.

"We are in a race against the clock. You get a window. It's called spring and summer," Smith said. "If we are not up and ready to do that, it will greatly exacerbate the financial, and I would say the personal situation for all those malaffected."

If the relief bill passes th House on Tuesday it has to go back to the Senate which is not in session until January 21st. Supporters of Sandy aid fear the aid will become a casualty of the looming debate over the nation's debt ceiling.

Critics of the Sandy relief spending point to a 2006 United States Government Accountability Office investigation that found that as much as $1.4 billion dollars of hurricane relief payments made for victims of Katrina and Rita were improper and potentially fraudulent.

Some of the proposed amendments to the Sandy relief bill are aimed at improving accountability.