From the Record:
The debate over a $60.4 billion federal Sandy relief package began in earnest on Monday with Senate Republican leaders arguing that the bill includes “questionable” spending and officials from the hardest-hit states urging quick action.
Pointing to photos of destruction in Moonachie and at the Jersey Shore set atop an easel on the Senate floor, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said residents and businesses need a full commitment from the federal government before they begin the long process of rebuilding.
“You need the money in place to rebuild entire projects and entire areas to ensure that families and businesses devastated by the storm can recover,” he said.
“You can’t hire a contractor to rebuild half a house or restore half a community,” he added.
Debate is expected to continue Tuesday. Proponents have said that failing to pass the bill by year’s end, when a new Congress takes over, would delay the process by months and jeopardize the summer season at the shore.
In a statement Monday, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., listed eight areas of the bill that need to be addressed because of “questionable spending.” Those include $12.9 billion proposed for preventing future storm damage and $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers. The senators said it was unclear where the money for damage prevention would come from and that there were not enough details on how the money destined for the Army Corps money would be spent.
The Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative advocacy group, said the money should be released in installments to make sure it is spent wisely.
“When a natural disaster occurs, there is a textbook response by Congress — they cobble together an overpriced bill that isn’t paid for, there’s no accountability or oversight, and it’s filled with pork,” the group said in a statement. “This proposal is no different.”
Governor Christie, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, have estimated that the two states suffered nearly $79 billion in damages.