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Sandy relief plan swells with aid for past disasters

January 11, 2013 News Extra

WASHINGTON — Conservatives and watchdog groups are mounting a “not-so-fast” campaign against a $50.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package that Northeastern governors and lawmakers hope to push through the House this coming week.

Their complaint is that lots of that money actually will go to recovery efforts for past disasters and other projects unrelated to the October storm.

The measure bill includes $150 million for what the Commerce Department described as fisheries disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Northeast, and $50 million in subsidies for replanting trees on private land damaged by wildfires.

The objections have led senior House Republicans to assemble a $17 billion proposal, that when combined already approved money for flood insurance claims, is less than half what President Barack Obama sought and the Senate passed in December.

House Speaker John Boehner intends to let the House vote on both measures.

Critics are taking the sharpest aim at $12.1 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development emergency block grants. Any state struck by a federally declared major disaster in 2011, 2012 or this year would qualify for the grants, and that’s just about all the states, said Stephen Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.