- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2013

As Congress takes up the second slice of relief money for Superstorm Sandy, the influential Club for Growth said Monday it will seek to punish the lawmakers who support the $51 billion package because it includes wasteful spending and pork that have nothing to do with reconstruction efforts in the Northeast.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, meanwhile, continued to ramp up pressure on Congress to pass the relief package, saying that the proposal before Congress “simply isn’t” a pork bill, and that he has been assured that the GOP-controlled House will handle the Sandy relief legislation in a similar fashion to how Congress handled federal assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, the tornado that slammed Joplin, Mo., and floods in Iowa.

“We don’t expect anything more than that, but will not accept anything less,” Mr. Christie said, after touring recovery efforts in Bradley Beach, N.J. “If they want to make new rules about disasters, well they picked the wrong state to make the new rules with, and we are going to continue to fight as hard as we need to.”

The dueling messages underscore the divisions within Republicans ranks over the relief package — a $17 billion bill and $34 billion amendment —- that the House is expected to vote on this week.

Earlier this month, Congress approved a $9 billion relief package to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance program.

But Mr. Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and other elected leaders from the Northeast — and both sides of the political aisle — have been waiting on Congress to approve more emergency funding and harshly criticized the delay.

The funding was expected to be voted on two weeks ago, but House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, changed gears and pulled a proposal after Republican lawmakers raised questions about some of the spending that was unrelated to the relief efforts.

Still, the Club for Growth and other budget watchdogs, such as Taxpayers for Common Sense, say the $51 billion package that Congress is expected to consider this week also includes millions of dollars for Amtrak upgrades, FBI salaries and road projects in states not affected by the storm.

As a result, there are some questions about whether there is enough Republican support in the House to approve the new spending.

In a letter to lawmakers on Monday, Andy Roth, the Club for Growth’s vice president of government affairs, said lawmakers should oppose the Sandy relief package — a $17 billion bill and $34 billion amendment — that Congress is expected to take up this week and said disaster relief legislation should be offset with spending cuts elsewhere and not larded up with what the groups calls pork projects.

“These voters will be included in the Club for Growth’s 2013 congressional scorecard,” said Mr. Roth, explaining that the scorecard grades lawmakers on how well they support what the group deems as pro-growth, free-market policies.

“Congress shouldn’t keep passing massive ‘emergency’ relief bills that aren’t paid for, have little oversight, and are stuffed with pork,” Mr. Roth said. “Also, Congress shouldn’t use disasters like Hurricane Sandy as an excuse to spend billions on long-term projects that should be considered during the regular appropriations process.”

Mr. Christie, though, said the original proposal that passed out of the Senate has been “stripped down to be a clean Sandy bill.”

“Yeah, there was some extra spending that was put in there, in the Senate bill, but the House has stripped that out,” he said. “So, all these folks on TV that are yapping about it’s a pork bill — it simply isn’t.”

Ahead of the expected vote Tuesday, the House on Monday voted 403 to 0 to pass a proposal that aims to streamline disaster aid, speeding up the way in which FEMA distributes funds.

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