What's left of houses in Far Rockaway, New York, after Sandy.
Get ready for the next big "offsets" fight, all mixed into the pretend deficit hysteria of the fiscal
curb fight. President Obama is going to ask Congress for a stripped-down $45 to $55 billion in emergency funding for Hurricane Sandy relief
Unless an austerity-minded Congress adds to the president’s plan, state leaders would have to figure out other ways to finance tens of billions of dollars of storm-related expenses or do without them. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were seeking a combined $82 billion in federal help both to clean up and restore damage from Hurricane Sandy as well as to upgrade and harden infrastructure to prepare for future storms. [...]
The administration request appears likely to come in even below the $60 billion that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said on Tuesday that he expected it to include. Yet even a spending request in the neighborhood of $50 billion would strain the current political system in Washington coming just weeks before a series of deep spending cuts and tax increases are set to take effect automatically, unless the president and Congress agree on a plan to avert them.
Republicans are, of course, trying to figure out how to make as big a fight as possible out of this.
Republicans eager to preserve what they see as the high ground on spending in their struggle with Mr. Obama may try to avoid approving all of the storm aid right away. Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the Republican chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has privately suggested taking up the aid request in two phases: emergency needs during the current lame-duck session and longer-term recovery requests next year.
“It might be difficult to get a large aid package through Congress in a lame duck” session, said a senior Republican committee official, who declined to be identified as speaking for the committee members.
The fact that the states suffering the most damage are all blue states probably has a lot to do with that. Despite the obvious and urgent need for this funding, Republicans will likely hold out as long as possible, and try to negotiate to trade the modest $50 billion included in the Obama fiscal cliff proposal
for stimulus for this emergency funding.
Meanwhile, as David Dayen points out, on Tuesday the Senate unanimously passed a defense authorization bill that contains $17 billion more than the Pentagon asked for. They'll go to conference over a House bill that has an addition $3 billion more than the Pentagon asked for. There's $20 billion in unnecessary spending that no one has even sneezed at.
12:03 PM PT: Tell Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to stop playing politics with disaster relief.