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Senator 'Pleased' to Include $200 Million in Pork Projects in 'Sandy Bill'

3:37 PM, Dec 17, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat from Alaska, is "pleased" to include more than $200 million in pork spending in the Sandy legislation, a bill meant to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The senator's office explains the request in a press release:

Alaskans hard hit by fisheries disasters in recent years would be eligible for federal assistance, if a comprehensive federal disaster funding bill released today gains final Congressional passage. U.S. Senator Mark Begich joined the other members of Alaska's congressional delegation in requesting the funding for Alaskans be included in the legislation, which also addresses the recent Superstorm Sandy which devastated the U.S. East Coast.

The measure proposes $150 million for the declared fisheries disasters in Alaska, New England and the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Begich also requested that the bill includes funding to address the marine debris washing up on the coasts of western states from the Japan earthquake of March 2011. ...

The bill also included is $56.8 million for charting, damage assessment and marine debris response. Sen. Begich recently wrote to the Appropriations Committee requesting inclusion of funds for the tsunami debris cleanup and fisheries disaster funding in the Superstorm Sandy supplemental package ...

In a statement, Begich expresses his pleasure with his own request. "I am pleased Senate appropriators recognized the need for funds to respond to the 2011 tsunami debris," Begich says, according to his office. "It will be up to NOAA to decide how to allocate those funds between needs for East Coast Sandy response and West Coast tsunami debris response, so I will work closely with the agency to ensure Alaska's needs get fairly considered."

Conservative groups have encouraged elected officials to vote against the bill because of the pork projects.

UPDATE: According to a statement from the White House, the Obama administration supports the Sandy bill:

The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of the amendment in the nature of the substitute to H.R. 1 providing supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2013 to respond to and recover from the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  The Senate amendment will provide the necessary resources to continue ongoing response and recovery efforts, while helping impacted communities effectively mitigate future risk of disaster to prevent losses of this magnitude from recurring.

The amendment ensures urgent and essential needs are being met, while recognizing the need to prevent losses of this magnitude from future disasters.  Further, it ensures that funds are invested wisely to improve communities' long-term resilience and protect against waste, fraud, and abuse. Given the emergency and one-time nature of this supplemental appropriation, and in keeping with the response to Hurricane Katrina, Deepwater Horizon, and other disasters, the Administration supports the decision to not offset these funds.  The Administration remains committed to balanced deficit reduction, and it believes both parties can come together to achieve that, while ensuring communities affected by Hurricane Sandy have the support they need to recover.

Providing Federal funding for response, recovery, and mitigation following Hurricane Sandy will maintain the Nation's tradition of pulling together to help one another in times of greatest need. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to refine the legislation and urges the Congress to pass a bill as soon as possible to give affected States and communities the support they need to recover and rebuild.

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