WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s proposal for $60.4 billion in federal aid for states hit by Superstorm Sandy adds a huge new item to an end-of-year congressional agenda already packed with controversy.
The president’s request to Congress on Friday followed weeks of discussions with lawmakers and officials from New York, New Jersey and other affected states who requested significantly more money, but generally praised the president’s request as they urged Congress to adopt it without delay.
“It’s not everything we wanted, but it’s close enough,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Pushing the request through Congress in the few weeks left before lawmakers adjourn at the end of the year will be no easy task. Washington’s attention is focused on the looming fiscal cliff of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs set to begin at the end of the year. And tea party House Republicans are likely to press for budget cuts elsewhere to offset some or even all disaster costs.
Those complications raised the prospects that the measure will be delayed in whole or in part until next year, although Schumer said the goal is to get it done by Dec. 31.
The measure is likely to advance first in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where supporters hope it can be quickly analyzed and brought the floor as early as next week. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has also received the request and is reviewing it, a spokesman said.