Alaska Fisheries Disaster Money Stripped From Relief Bill

The U.S. House has stripped a relief bill of money for the fishery disaster in Alaska.

The outlook is not much better in the Senate.

The House passed the second round of an aid package earlier this evening. It passed an extension of the flood insurance program earlier this month.

Most of the money in Tuesday’s bill will be sent to the Northeast states devastated by Hurricane Sandy that struck in October.

Republicans in the House whittled away the fishery disaster money in the bill.

“I’m not surprised, and very frankly, it probably didn’t belong in this bill,” Representative Don Young said.

Young voted for it anyway. Republicans in the House cut funding for fishery disasters in Alaska, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast from $150 million down to just $5 million.

And now, the money will just go to the Northeast, something Congressman Young says is the right thing to do.

“No way were we going to be able to tack that fishery money on Sandy,” Young said. “The Senate did that, yes, but it wasn’t going to fly in the House.”

The Senate did that in December, but the House failed to act on it before the last Congress finished its term. So any work up to that point was rendered moot.

And now it’s the Senate’s turn to pass the House bill.

Senator Mark Begich, who initially requested $45 million in fishery aid for the state, says he’ll likely vote for whatever comes to the Senate.

“The process in this country now is, you may have a disaster and it’s declared, we may or may not help you, but fend for yourself,” Begich said. “That’s not how this country was built.”

Both Senator Begich and Congressman Young say the money will have to go through the normal appropriations process later this year, meaning Congress will have to fund the appropriate agencies at a level that can pay for the disaster aid.

But that could be a tall order. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years.

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