Storm relief sets up new spending without cuts

  • This Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough in New York. The tiny beachfront neighborhood was told to evacuate before superstorm Sandy hit New York and burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)This Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough in New York. The tiny beachfront neighborhood was told to evacuate before superstorm Sandy hit New York and burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
  • ** FILE ** An aerial view shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The tiny beachfront neighborhood, told to evacuate before Superstorm Sandy hit New York, burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)** FILE ** An aerial view shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The tiny beachfront neighborhood, told to evacuate before Superstorm Sandy hit New York, burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
  • A beachside house deemed uninhabitable by the New York City Department of Buildings is left in ruins in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of the Rockaways in New York on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)A beachside house deemed uninhabitable by the New York City Department of Buildings is left in ruins in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of the Rockaways in New York on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • A roller coaster that once stood on the Funtown Pier at Seaside Heights, N.J., is seen dunked in the ocean on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, after the pier was hit by superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)A roller coaster that once stood on the Funtown Pier at Seaside Heights, N.J., is seen dunked in the ocean on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, after the pier was hit by superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  • President Obama (right) is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon the president's arrival at the Atlantic City International Airport outside Atlantic City, N.J., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Mr. Obama traveled to the region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic coast of New Jersey in areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)President Obama (right) is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon the president's arrival at the Atlantic City International Airport outside Atlantic City, N.J., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Mr. Obama traveled to the region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic coast of New Jersey in areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • Much of lower Manhattan remains dark, as viewed from the darkened Manhattan side of the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Power outages plagued much of the New York area in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Much of lower Manhattan remains dark, as viewed from the darkened Manhattan side of the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Power outages plagued much of the New York area in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • This image provided by NASA shows the Eastern Seaboard of the United States at night from a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite as Hurricane Sandy came ashore on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of the storm at 3:35 a.m. EDT. (AP Photo/NASA)This image provided by NASA shows the Eastern Seaboard of the United States at night from a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite as Hurricane Sandy came ashore on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of the storm at 3:35 a.m. EDT. (AP Photo/NASA)
  • A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, N.J., on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, N.J., on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
  • A man strolls along the sand as a burst of sunlight passes through the window of a beachfront house badly damaged in Superstorm Sandy in the Belle Harbor section of the Queens borough of New York on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)A man strolls along the sand as a burst of sunlight passes through the window of a beachfront house badly damaged in Superstorm Sandy in the Belle Harbor section of the Queens borough of New York on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, as he looks at the debris of a home that washed up onto the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after Superstorm Sandy rolled through Mantoloking, N.J. Sandy caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, as he looks at the debris of a home that washed up onto the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after Superstorm Sandy rolled through Mantoloking, N.J. Sandy caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  • Rachael Alhadad greets some of her cats at her family's home in the Midland Beach section of New York's Staten Island on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The family's two-room rental house became mildewed after water from superstorm Sandy rose nearly to the ceiling on the first floor. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)Rachael Alhadad greets some of her cats at her family's home in the Midland Beach section of New York's Staten Island on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The family's two-room rental house became mildewed after water from superstorm Sandy rose nearly to the ceiling on the first floor. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • ** FILE ** New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, to talk about aid to help his state recover from superstorm Sandy. President Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $50 billion in additional emergency assistance. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)** FILE ** New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, to talk about aid to help his state recover from superstorm Sandy. President Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $50 billion in additional emergency assistance. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • Damage caused by a fire in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York is shown on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The fire department sent more than 190 firefighters to the blaze caused by superstorm Sandy.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)Damage caused by a fire in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York is shown on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The fire department sent more than 190 firefighters to the blaze caused by superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
  • President Obama, accompanied by members of his Cabinet, speaks about superstorm Sandy at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. With him are (from second from the left) Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Obama, accompanied by members of his Cabinet, speaks about superstorm Sandy at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. With him are (from second from the left) Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
  • ** FILE ** A Christmas wreath is displayed on the second-floor porch railing of a home adjacent to the fire-damaged zone in the Breezy Point section of the New York borough of Queens on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. More than 100 homes burned to the ground during Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)** FILE ** A Christmas wreath is displayed on the second-floor porch railing of a home adjacent to the fire-damaged zone in the Breezy Point section of the New York borough of Queens on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. More than 100 homes burned to the ground during Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
  • A landscaper loads mulch into a wheelbarrow at a beachfront home in Fairfield, Conn., on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. The national economy is expected to absorb the blow from superstorm Sandy with little long-term damage, but in the short term, at least, Sandy is introducing dramatic booms and busts across the Northeast. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)A landscaper loads mulch into a wheelbarrow at a beachfront home in Fairfield, Conn., on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. The national economy is expected to absorb the blow from superstorm Sandy with little long-term damage, but in the short term, at least, Sandy is introducing dramatic booms and busts across the Northeast. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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President Obama’s call for $60 billion in additional spending to cover damage from Superstorm Sandy tops a congressional wish list of more stimulus spending, expanded unemployment benefits and extending the payroll tax cut — all without finding cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

The new spending, totaling as much as $250 billion, and the lack of what lawmakers call “offsets” threaten to complicate the already difficult “fiscal cliff” conversations going on in Washington, where the push is on to lower deficits over the long run.

“The American people are expecting that the cliff negotiations to be focused on reducing the deficit, not increasing spending,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, who has called for any form of new spending to be balanced by savings or reductions elsewhere in the federal budget.

Members of both parties, though, are shying away from demanding that the huge, unexpected cost of the recovery package for New York and the other states battered by Superstorm Sandy not be lumped in with the federal deficit. Lawmakers and officials from the region are pressing hard for the money now.

The office of House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, did not return a message seeking comment on whether he would require a dollar-for-dollar offset for the extra spending.

Democrats, meanwhile, generally say that Sandy’s costs and other additional spending should be tacked onto the federal deficit. They say that is how past national emergencies have been financed and that programs such as extended unemployment benefits provide a great bang for the buck for an economy still struggling to gain altitude.

The new spending proposals coincide with a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the nation has rung up a nearly $300 billion deficit in the first two months of the fiscal year, which started Oct. 1 — putting more pressure on lawmakers to get the nation’s fiscal house in order as the year-end deadline to deal with the fiscal cliff comes ever nearer.

Still, Mr. Obama rolled out the Superstorm Sandy package late last week, and the administration said the tens of billions of dollars in “emergency funding can and should be provided without an offset.”

Kevin Hassett, of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, warned that the longer lawmakers rely on deficit spending, the bigger the nation’s fiscal problems will get.

“Democrats would clearly trap us in a cycle of dependency on Keynesian stimulus,” Mr. Hassett said. “That cycle leads to financial ruin, and the sooner we start seriously pursuing real fixes, the better our chances of turning this economy around.”

Democrats say that Congress should not get mired in findings offsetting spending cuts, citing the precedents of such big-ticket items such as the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The buy-now-pay-later approach — with interest — has been on full display on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat, introduced a bill last Wednesday to extend Mr. Obama’s 2 percent payroll tax “holiday” another year without offering any way to pay for what amounts to upward of $110 billion in spending.

The following day, Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, told reporters in the Senate Press Gallery that Congress should stretch emergency unemployment benefits, scheduled to expire, through 2013, but lawmakers don’t have to cover the estimated $30 billion price tag with additional savings or spending reductions.

“Traditionally, until very recently, these extensions of unemployment benefits have been done without an offset,” Mr. Reed said. “I think we’d get a bigger bang for the buck in terms of job creation by doing it without an offset.”

Moments later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid marched into the same room and delivered what sounded like the exact opposite message. Tax rates, Mr. Reid said, should be raised for the nation’s top earners because Congress must come up with new revenue streams to support its spending.

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