WASHINGTON – The Senate will be turning its attention to a $60.4 billion disaster aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims next week while President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner try to avert the “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases.
The Senate will start debating the bill Monday afternoon. Republicans said they had no objections after Democratic leader Harry Reid assured them on Thursday they could offer amendments to the bill.
It’s unclear if the bill could become part of the fiscal cliff negotiations or not. The measure could face a tough fight on Capitol Hill, especially from GOP fiscal conservatives wary of approving such large spending so quickly.
House Republicans are looking at a smaller initial package to cover immediate needs while awaiting more detailed evidence on damages for additional spending. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund still has about $4.8 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring.
As is customary with natural disasters, the request was not accompanied by offsetting spending cuts to defray its cost. Some fiscal conservatives want spending offsets to pay for all or part of the bill.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that only about $9 billion of the $60.4 billion proposed would be spent over the next nine months. An additional $12 billion would be spent the following year. The bill has many large infrastructure projects that often require years to complete. Some Republicans say the CBO estimate undercuts the urgency of the aid package.