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Senate Democrats Warn GOP on Sandy Aid

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Schumer said he is hopeful the Senate can pass the $60.4 billion disaster aid bill to help areas hit by Superstorm Sandy. The New York Democrat said GOP lawmakers could regret trying to scale back the package if their districts are the next to be hit by natural disasters.

Senate Democratic leaders are warning their GOP colleagues that Republican opposition to a Superstorm Sandy aid package could “boomerang” on them if disasters strike their home regions.

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat, specifically chided Republican colleagues from the Gulf Coast and other regions prone to disaster for seeking to scale back and restrict a $60.4 billion aid bill currently on the Senate floor.

“We’re hopeful because members will see that if they start putting new barriers in the way of disaster relief it could boomerang on them. Their region could be next,” Schumer told reporters in the Capitol. “I am hopeful that at the end of the day, we will have the votes.”

Senate Republicans on Wednesday proposed a $23.8 billion alternative that would scale back funding by nearly two-thirds to focus spending largely on immediate relief efforts that would go through late March. That measure would strip out about $13 billion that Democrats have proposed for mitigation spending for long-term work aimed at preparing for future disasters.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that the disaster bill remains a top priority before the Senate breaks for Christmas and warned GOP opponents not to delay it.

“When [Hurricane] Irene struck, we acted very quickly. We didn’t look and say, ‘Well let’s see, Alabama has two Republican senators, Mississippi has two Republican senators, Texas has two Republican senators. Louisiana has one Republican senator, maybe this isn’t the right time to do it,’” the Nevada Democrat said.

“We shouldn’t have to wait months to help people in the Northeast,” added Reid, noting he would like the bill wrapped up in 24 hours.

Congress long has adhered to the idea that communities can’t handle disasters on their own and has provided federal assistance knowing such events could happen to them, Schumer said.

“You want to break that chain? There could be real trouble for disaster relief, particularly for areas that are prone to disasters,” Schumer said.

He also criticized the GOP’s narrower alternative as problematic for planning rebuilding efforts.

“Anyone who’s done anything with disasters, any businessman can tell you: You can’t budget for three months and then say we’ll come back later,” he said.

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