Two conservative groups on Monday said that a $60 billion bill meant to fund Hurricane Sandy relief efforts is filled with pork that is nowhere near connected with the storm.
The Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America also said that much of the spending in the bill isn’t even scheduled for work in 2014, reported The Hill.
"When a natural disaster occurs, there is a textbook response by Congress — they cobble together an overpriced bill that isn't paid for, there's no accountability or oversight, and it's filled with pork,” the Club for Growth said. “This proposal is no different.”
Although $47.4 billion of the $60.4 billion package is aimed at Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery efforts, only about $9 billion would be spent during the next nine months. Roughly $12 billion more is scheduled to spent in 2014.
Conservatives have aimed their ire at some longer-term projects, some affected by the storm and some not, which they think could be held off so that the focus can remain on the immediate needs of Sandy’s victims.
"We need far more information," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. "How much is absolutely needed now? That's all we should really be considering now, the short-term needs. And then get some real information in."
Some of the spending — $2 million to repair the roof of the Smithsonian, $7.3 billion for the New York City transportation system — is easily justified as Sandy-damaged fixes.
Nearly $150 million for fisheries in Alaska, $821 million for dredging projects across the country, and just under $60 million to help repairs in Japan from the tsunami that struck that country do not need to be included in the bill being rushed through Congress, said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“People are still hurting here, and, yes, they do need help,” Ellis said. “But the more extraneous things that get tacked on, the more it becomes a gravy train for miscellaneous projects rather than a true relief bill.”
The bill is about $20 billion less than officials in New York and New Jersey actually asked for as both states look to repair significantly damaged infrastructure, from the transportation system to the Jersey Shore.
While Republican Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey was quick to point out that “one man’s stimulus is another man’s waste,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said that not only is the money not stimulus, but in rebuilding agencies need to make sure they prepare for the future.
"So if there's another storm, you don't suffer the same damage," Schumer said. "You don't simply rebuild the South St. subway station the same way... Much of [the subway] was built over 100 years ago, there was no thought of such floods."
"While Hurricane Sandy was a major disaster, the majority of the funds being requested are being spent beyond FY 2014, and much of the funding goes toward superfluous programs that have no direct relation to Hurricane Sandy," Heritage Action for America said in a statement.
Matt Mayer of the Heritage Action for America told The Hill that unnecessary spending should be removed, and some of the spending, while appropriate, does not need to be included in this bill.
He specifically said that $3 billion to repair or replace federal equipment of facilities should be decided as part of spending bills later, and that what Heritage estimates as $28 billion in future storm prevention also should be pushed off for the moment.
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