Senate appropriators are readying a massive $60 billion aid package for states effected by Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast at the end of October. Sources on the Hill tell Breitbart News that the full Senate is expected to take up the measure later this week, when it turns its attention to the pending Military Construction appropriation, which passed the House earlier this year. The disaster relief will be added as an amendment.
Sources expect a floor fight over amendments to at least partially offset the costs of the relief, but that these will be unsuccessful. One possible fight could be over a White House proposal to appropriate $15 billion of the relief, a quarter of the total aid, through the Community Development Block Grant Program. That program has extremely flexible guidelines for eligible projects and could fund efforts only tangentially related to Sandy.
Next week, the House will likely take up the Senate version or request a conference to iron out specific details. Republicans on the Appropriations Committee have discussed, as an initial step, simply using the roughly $5 billion that remains in FEMA's disaster relief accounts. They could then revisit the matter next year if more aid is warranted.
It's a sensible position. And one that will remain on the table around 30 seconds after the Sandy Aid bill hits the House. With the holidays approaching, pressure on the House GOP to quickly pass a relief package will be enormous. It is unlikely they will make any real effort to offset the costs of the measure.
By the end of next week, Congress will likely pass something close to $60 billion in relief. The fiscal cliff will just be a tad higher.
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