Sandy relief funding hits speed bumps


As states along the mid-Atlantic seaboard continue to grapple with the devastation wrought by superstorm Sandy, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post today calling on Congress to "to provide aid to the Northeast, a region facing unprecedented damage and devastation."

Govs. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., and Dannel Malloy, D-Conn., argued that "in times of crisis no region, state or single American should have to stand alone or be left to fend for themselves," pointing to the "hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, thousands still left homeless or displaced, tens of billions of dollars in economic loss" as evidence that "It's time for Congress to stand with us."

The governors, while recognizing that "our nation faces significant fiscal challenges," strive to separate the disaster-relief needs of their region from the ongoing "fiscal cliff" negotiations consuming Capitol Hill, arguing that Congress must "not allow this much-needed aid to fall in to the ideological divide."

"This marks the seventh week since Sandy made landfall. And Congress has yet to act," they write. "Yet our needs are real and immediate, and Congress must act -- as it has so many times before -- to assist our recovery and help us build back better and stronger than ever."

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill today, a bipartisan delegation of congressmen from the affected areas announced a tax bill to help victims of the storm that would "complement" the $60 billion supplemental appropriations bill requested by the administration.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., explained, "This legislation is needed primarily because the supplemental appropriations does not address" the full spectrum of relief needs, adding, "We will get a cost on this as soon as we introduce the legislation, and as with the appropriations, we're going to pay for it later."

Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., asked his colleagues to ensure that the relief efforts do not become "mired down in politics," framing the specifics of the bill as "common sense solutions."

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., described himself as "concerned about with some of what we've been hearing," reminding his audience that other parts of the country suffering from natural disasters have received relief aid without any hand-wringing or debates over funding.

"If there needs to be a discussion about doing things differently, it shouldn't be on the heels of a natural disaster like this with people suffering," LoBiondo insisted. "That can take place at another time, but these are common sense measures that need to happen now."

Despite the bipartisan show of unity on behalf of storm victims, like many seemingly uncontroversial initiatives navigating the halls of Congress, the request for $60 billion in aid money has generated ire from some quarters, particularly the House Republican Conference. House GOPers do not plan to introduce a funding bill anywhere near the administration's $60 billion request, arguing that "the administration hasn't provided sufficient details to justify spending that amount," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Instead, a senior Republican aide tells the Journal, the proposed amount would be "far smaller" than the administration's request.

An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., after a conversation between Cantor and Cuomo, told the Journal that Republicans want to help those affected by the storm but noted that Cantor didn't commit to a specific amount of money.