Senate Republicans, the week before Christmas, are trying to slash 60 percent of aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, funding only projects and needs that they feel are immediately necessary. This means that village, town, city, and state governments cannot plan or move forward on vital long-term projects to rebuild in the wake of the hurricane-turned-superstorm.
“U.S. Senate Republicans sought to slash a $60.4 billion aid bill to cover reconstruction after Superstorm Sandy, proposing on Wednesday to fund only $23.8 billion in immediate disaster relief while assessing longer-term needs,” Reuters reports:
Senator Daniel Coats of Indiana said his plan for $23.8 billion in initial funding would provide sufficient money for immediate needs through March 27, for work such as debris cleanup, repairing damaged equipment, rebuilding destroyed homes and businesses.
“It seems to me the most logical, responsible way to move forward is to identify the immediate needs and provide the immediate funding to meet those needs,” said Coats, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“We don’t have time right now to get all the way through and analyze the actual losses that were attributable to Sandy,” said Republican senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, adding that the full $60.4 billion looked like a “slush fund.”
The Republican plan would eliminate some $13 billion in infrastructure improvements aimed at helping to prevent damage from future storms. Among these are projects to keep New York City subway tunnels from flooding and to build sand barriers to protect some shorelines from storm surges.
It labels $5.4 billion to make transportation systems more resilient as “non-Sandy related.” The Amtrak passenger rail agency, a frequent target of Republican budget-cutting efforts would get only $32 million under the bill, instead of $336 million.
Coats said such mitigation efforts were “long-term projects” that should not be immediately funded without further study.
The Republicans also aim to cut out $150 million for rebuilding fisheries, including those damaged by disasters in Alaska and the Gulf Coast. It would exclude a $58.9 million Department of Agriculture request to replant trees on private property due to “unsubstantiated” estimates for damage from Sandy.
Image via NOAA
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