The $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill advanced in the Senate on Friday, clearing two procedural hurdles that will allow the bill to pass when the Senate convenes again next week after the Christmas vacation.
As Breitbart News reported, Senate Democrats added various “sweeteners” to the Hurricane Sandy relief bill to get Republicans on board.
“The aid bill, after much fighting back and forth in the Senate, will pass the Senate virtually unscathed,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “We are halfway home.”
According to Politico, few believe the bill will make it all the way and pass the House because “House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) shows no appetite for such a large bill.” Realistically, this may just be a test run for what type of legislation can be passed at the start of the next legislative session.
The Senate bill is heavily laden “with transportation and community development funds, including long-term capital projects to strengthen the New York subway system and rebuild New Jersey’s devastated shoreline.”
In addition, “$5.35 billion is provided for the Corps of Engineers,” $11.8 billion to emergency relief for public transportation, and $17 billion for community development block grants, which is “more than eight times the amount Republicans” initially proposed.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing FEMA, has an alternative proposal that “provides $23.8 billion, about a third of the request with the intent of carrying the recovery into March next year.”
Coats offered his proposal as a temporary measure “to identify the immediate needs and provide the immediate funding to address those needs” while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used in a “useful way that doesn’t turn out to be a waste of money” for long term projects.
Under Friday’s agreement, Coats’ proposal will get a vote on the floor next week, but it will need 60 votes to pass, which is “an almost impossible task given the Democratic unity behind the larger” relief bill.