Amid the discussions of the “fiscal cliff” and the debt ceiling, the United States Senate is set to take up a relief package intended to aid recovery from Hurricane Sandy. But it has become embroiled in the debate about the nation’s finances.
The package totals more than $60 billion.
Sen. Mike Johanns is worried the measure has strayed from its original intent.
“And, unfortunately, the final package has just gotten completely out of hand,” Johanns recently told Nebraska reporters in a conference call. “It looks more like a wish-list for federal agencies.”
Johanns isn’t the only one raising objections to the bill.
The New York Times reports that some House Republicans have objected that the package was thrown together hastily and that it indeed contains spending on items other than emergency aid. Some critics have suggested passing a smaller measure and considering additional relief once states get a clearer picture of the damage and a more reliable estimate on the cost of recovery.
Money in the measure has been shifted to attract the support needed for passage, according to the New York Daily News. Some money will go toward the South and the Midwest to offset losses in those regions.
The measure passed a procedural vote Friday, setting up its likely passage this week.
As for Johanns, he says he’s glad to vote for needed disaster assistance.
“What I’m not willing to do is to run off and provide funding when there would be no way I could justify this as a response to a disaster request,” according to Johanns.
Even if the measure passes the Senate, it faces a tough vote in the House, if it ever comes up for a vote. The House left Washington for Christmas break a week ago. House leaders have not signaled any attention to return to session.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]