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Sandy’s devastation prompts senators to call for speedier aid

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 9:26 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — WASHINGTON—They brought photos of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. They brought statistics—more than 300,000 homes seriously damaged in New York alone, for example. And Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., brought a newspaper headline: “U.S. Denies Aid to Md. Storm Victims.”

Senators from the Northeast and mid-Atlantic made appeals Wednesday for swift congressional action on a disaster aid bill expected to run into tens of billions of dollars.

The White House is expected to send a spending bill to Capitol Hill this week. The measure is expected to provide money not only for rebuilding but also for shoring up defenses against future flooding.

“We can either invest in protections now, or we will pay more later,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing.

New York and New Jersey suffered the most damage, but senators from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island appealed to their colleagues not to forget their states.

“While Delaware didn’t receive the kind of devastation that our neighbors to the north have received, we’ve suffered widespread flooding; we’ve suffered severe damage to many homes and to many businesses,” Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said. “Our beaches, which provide a vital buffer between the ocean and our shore communities, have been badly depleted, leaving us vulnerable to flooding and to damage even from small storms and routine high tides.”

Mikulski was upset that the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied individual assistance to residents on its eastern shore; Maryland officials plans to appeal the decision.

“Right now, there is heartbreak in Maryland,” Mikulski said.

Senators sought to head off any effort by deficit hawks to require the disaster aid to be offset by spending cuts.

“Congress should not allow itself to get tied up in knots engaging in a political debate over offsets,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., who chaired the hearing. “This is not the time. Congress did not require them after 9/11, and we did not do so after Hurricane Katrina.”

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