|How Much? New Orleans amounts differ.|
The negotiations will test President Bush’s clout. The White House has said Bush will veto the final supplemental if it exceeds $94 billion. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) sides with Bush. After the Senate vote, Hastert said, “As it’s currently drafted, the Senate’s...bill is dead on arrival in the House.”
Larry Bory, HDR vice president for federal government relations, agrees. “I think this is going to be a big salami,” he says. “They’re going to make some cuts.” Bory thinks the final bill is likely to be “somewhere close to $100 billion.” He says some items dropped from the supplemental probably will end up in fiscal 2007 appropriations bills later this year.
The Senate supplemental includes $4 billion for the Corps of Engineers to bolster levees and carry out other flood control work around New Orleans. The House version had $1.5 billion. The final number is likely to be at or near the Senate mark. After the House passed its bill, Bush asked for $2.2 billion more for the Corps, including $1.6 billion to strengthen New Orleans-area floodwalls.
“That money obviously is needed down there,” says Karen Bachman, Associated General Contractors’ government affairs director for environment, federal markets and procurement. Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense vice president for programs, says, “I’m pretty confident that [$2.2 billion] will survive.” One issue in conference will be whether lawmakers will accept Bush’s proposal to offset the $2.2 billion by cutting Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.
The Senate bill also includes $5.2 billion in Housing and Urban Development Dept. Community Development Block Grants, $1 billion above the House level, and $339 million to fix and reconstruct hurricane-damaged facilities on Gulf Coast military bases. The House recommendation was $190 million.
The Senate allotted $779 million for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, of which $561 million would go to rebuild VA’s New Orleans hospital. The House has $550 million for VA.
The Senate provides $1.5 billion for transportation, including $594 million for the Federal Highway Administration to reimburse states for roads damaged by pre-Katrina storms. The House bill has no transportation funds.fter the Senate’s May 4 approval of a $109-billion supplemental spending measure, appropriators from that chamber now face difficult discussions on a final bill with the House, which passed legislation carrying a $91.9-billion price tag. For construction, the Senate package’s main items are in its $28.9 billion to continue rebuilding the Gulf Coast after 2005’s hurricanes. The big question is how much will survive the conference with the House.