Republicans in both chambers also questioned why Congress had to rush to appropriate money intended for long-term recovery, much of which wouldn’t be spent for many years. Federal agencies are expected to provide more details within a few months about the need for reconstruction and work to better protect buildings, bridges and roads from future storms.
“We don’t need to do all of this right now. A lot of these needs extend over several years and there’s legitimate questions on our side” about the Senate’s proposal, Tom Cole, R-Okla., a senior GOP appropriator, said on Dec. 30. “We haven’t had the hearings that you would want to have.”
Rogers had prepared a two-bill solution to try to overcome such concerns. The House would take up the Senate bill (HR 1), then consider a $27 billion alternative that would address some of the most immediate needs, such as a $9.7 billion increase in borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program.
The Republican-controlled House might well have passed the scaled-back version, which would also have provided $5.4 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund that pays for temporary housing, crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance and public assistance to local communities and some nonprofits for debris removal, emergency protective measures and repair. Another $5.4 billion for federal transit emergency relief would aid the public transportation systems in New York and New Jersey.
The Appropriations Committee also envisioned allowing consideration of an amendment to the smaller bill that could potentially add $33 billion sought by the affected states.
Humberto Sanchez and Carolyn Phenicie contributed to this story.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.