“My state has been subjected to a number of major natural disasters, and I can fully appreciate the advantage and necessity of having relief and recovery resources readily available after a major disaster,” said Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee that wrote the bill. He voted for the bill, though he called it “far from perfect.”
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the Maryland Democrat who took over as chairwoman of that committee in the middle of the debate, said passing the bill “showed that in America, we truly believe we are all in this together — that when one community is hit by a disaster, all communities are hit.”
Republicans did prevent Democrats from adding more than $600 million for fighting wildland fires. They argued that the money should go through the regular spending process and be stacked up against other needs, rather than catch a piggyback ride on the emergency spending.
But Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, lost his fight to strip from the bill $58 million to plant trees on private property.
“Why is it the role of the federal government to pay for trees to be planted on private property, much less funded in a bill to repair the damage done by a hurricane?” Mr. McCain asked.
Ms. Mikulski said the reforestation program matches one started after Hurricane Katrina and used after tornadoes struck in the Southeast, and pays for clearing timber. She said the new money is limited to areas affected by Sandy.
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