Coats' scaled-back $23.8 billion Sandy aid bill was rejected by the Senate.
Republicans also criticized $13 billion in the Senate bill for projects to protect against future storms, including fortification of mass transit systems in the Northeast and building new jetties in vulnerable seaside areas. While maybe worthwhile, those projects don't represent emergencies and shouldn't be exempt from federal spending caps, GOP lawmakers said.
The basic $17 billion before the House on Tuesday is aimed at immediate Sandy recovery needs, including $5.4 billion for New York and New Jersey transit systems and $5.4 billion for FEMA's disaster aid fund. The $33.7 billion amendment would bring the total up to the more than $60 billion sought by Obama and passed by Senate Democrats.
It includes the block grants for previous disasters, weather forecasting improvements and measures to minimize damage from future storms, but not the $188 million for the Amtrak expansion project.
"We know it's going to be a heavy lift for the $33 billion, but we'll find the votes," said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., whose Staten Island district was heavily damaged by Sandy.
But conservatives clearly prefer the smaller, $17 billion version. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., a frequent critic of Boehner after losing his seat on the House Budget Committee, said the Sandy aid legislation should be focused on storm-related recovery.
"Conservatives want to see a real plan that addresses real needs for Sandy," he said.
Obama has signed a $9.7 billion replenishment of the national flood insurance fund to help pay claims from 115,000 homeowners, businesses and renters.
FEMA has spent more than $2 billion in disaster relief money for shelter, restoring power and other immediate needs arising from Sandy. The Oct. 29 storm that pounded the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine with hurricane-force winds and coastal flooding. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit.
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