WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's proposal for $60.4 billion in aid for states hit by Superstorm Sandy adds a huge new item to an end-of-year congressional agenda already packed with controversy.
Lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and other states had requested significantly more money, but generally praised the request Friday. They're urging 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.
The massive request blends aid for homeowners, businesses, and state and local governments walloped by Sandy, a disaster whose cost is rivaled only by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
The aid will help states rebuild public infrastructure like roads and tunnels and help thousands of people displaced from their homes. Most of the money - $47.4 billion - is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. Another $13 billion would be used for mitigation efforts to protect against future storms.