Senate Passes Disaster Relief Bill

The Senate passed a disaster relief bill on Friday. Included is money for fishery disasters across the country.

Subsistence and commercial fishermen won’t get any money soon, because the House is unlikely to take up the bill.

The House is out of session until Sunday, and there is no word on just what it will vote on yet. The lower chamber has not produced its own relief bill. Without time to craft one, it could just pick up the Senate’s $60 billion version.

Senator Mark Begich doesn’t expect that to happen.

“If the House doesn’t want to make sure there’s disaster relief money for folks in not only New York and New Jersey, which have huge needs right now in the middle of their winter, and our state and others that have disasters, that’s a choice they’re going to make over there. I think it’s a big mistake,” Begich said.

A big mistake that would force both the House and Senate to start over when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.

Earlier in the day, the Senate rejected an amendment from Republican Tom Coburn. It would have stripped any fishery disaster money that wasn’t within 50 miles of Hurricane Sandy.

Another failed amendment won the support of Senator Lisa Murkowski. That would have pared the overall bill back – including stripping out the fishery money.

Still, she voted to pass the final bill with $150 million of fishery aid for the country.

“So what, you’re going to put one disaster ahead of other disasters? Drought? Fire? Fish disasters as we’ve seen in Alaska?,” Murkowski said.

Senator Murkowski says she has no idea what the Republican controlled House will do when it returns.

“They’re gone to the wind as far as I can tell – nobody around here,” Murkowski said.

Neither the Senate nor the House is in session Saturday. Both are in Sunday, with last minute fiscal cliff negotiations expected to take center stage.

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