The House might vote as early as Tuesday on legislation to provide emergency money to communities hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, although the Republican leadership was still looking for ways to satisfy concerns from conservatives about a $60.4 billion aid package that passed the Senate.
Republicans leaving a Monday evening caucus meeting said decisions about the scale of the bill (HR 1) that the Senate passed Dec. 28 remained up in the air.
“Basically what the Speaker said is ‘Stay tuned,’” said C.W. Bill Young of Florida, a senior GOP appropriator.
Among the plans being considered is splitting up the Sandy measure in two votes to allow some Republicans to express their concerns about the size of the bill, said Chris Smith of New Jersey, a Republican whose district was hit hard by the late October storm.
He said no decisions had been made yet about how the measure would be split for such votes, or when House GOP leadership might bring it to the floor.
Smith described himself as “cautiously confident” that some Sandy aid could be cleared before the 112th session of Congress ends at midday Thursday and the Senate-passed bill expires.
If the Senate measure expires, Congress would have to start over next year. The chambers could work from the Senate’s bill, which drew 12 GOP supporters. Smith said he expected the Sandy aid measure to pass the House if leaders put it on the floor. The New York and New Jersey delegations have been lobbying leaders heavily to get the Sandy bill on the House floor, Smith said.
“We are still kind of in limbo, but there is a deadline,” Jon Runyan, a New Jersey Republican, said after the caucus meeting.
Young said he expected that members would clear the new spending. The measures would get broad support from Democrats, and members of the New York and New Jersey delegations have been trying to rally support for it from Republicans whose own states are prone to catastrophes.
“You cannot let these people be out there hanging by themselves, needing a lot of help. From a state like Florida, I know that hurricane disasters are disasters,” Young said, adding that the plans have not been finalized yet for the House’s Sandy legislation. “Again, I don’t know the details of what it will be, but there is a great need out there that needs to be met.”
Conservatives have objected to the broad sweep of the Senate’s bill, which included about $13 billion for longer-term projects and also provided aid for unrelated disasters, such as helping Western communities cope with the aftermath of wildfires.
Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said it would be “difficult” to support the bill at the level passed in the Senate. Still, the scale of devastation seen after Sandy may persuade some Republicans to support an aid measure in the final days of the 112th Congress.
“There are some concerns about the level” of spending, said Kristi Noem of South Dakota, also an RSC member, before she entered the Monday evening meeting. “But we recognize that these are tough situations.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.