Chambliss says he expects any package to help Northeast states hit by the superstorm Sandy will have to including matching cuts in spending elsewhere in the federal budget.
But a larger measure almost certainly will be more difficult to pass, especially as leaders in Congress and the president are trying to negotiate the big tax and spending measures around the fiscal cliff. Budget hawk Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the way the package is designed will determine how much resistance it encounters.
“It depends on how they go about doing it. There needs to be an assessment of what the real need is,” he said, adding there will need to be savings found elsewhere to make up for new spending. “There’s going to be an effort on my part to pay for it.”
Conservative Republicans lost last year on a bid to build offsets into proposed fiscal 2012 supplemental disaster aid, and it’s far from clear they can prevail in a similar bid this year. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., a senior appropriator whose state also was hit by Sandy, said she expects the disaster aid package to pass, especially with families who lost their homes and suffered other losses still struggling to recover.
“People will see how really serious this is, and I think we are going to be able to get it through,” Mikulski said. “We are going into the holidays. The poignancy of this disaster at this particular season should soften even the tightest grip on the wallet.”
It’s unclear how the disaster aid bill will move through Congress. Leaders might opt to put it forth as a stand-alone bill. The package also could be added to a lame-duck measure meant to buy Congress more time to negotiate a major deal on the budget that would seek to push the scheduled automatic spending cuts under sequester into next year.
A third option would be to attach the disaster aid bill to a catchall fiscal 2013 spending bill, which appropriators in both parties and chambers hope to clear in December. The chances for an omnibus appear slim, with leadership aides in both parties and chambers noting Congress must first deal with the fiscal cliff before returning to unfinished fiscal 2013 appropriations.