Earmark Moratorium in Congress Snarls Superstorm Sandy Funding

Expect a really, really detailed funding request.

Lawmakers representing areas hit hard by superstorm Sandy are concerned that if they make changes to the Obama administration’s still-unreleased request for more money for ongoing clean-up efforts once the legislation is sent to Capitol Hill, they’ll violate their much-touted ban on earmarks.

After all, their requests would directly benefit their constituents, and lawmakers previously agreed to a moratorium on such projects. Under Senate rules, the ban includes provisions added “primarily at the request of a senator providing” grants, loans and other expenditures “to a specific state, locality or congressional district other than through” a formula or competitive bidding.

So they’ve come up with a solution: Have the administration cover all the needed bases in its request. Under the rules, it’s not an earmark if the White House asks for it.

Lawmakers have been huddling behind closed doors with administration officials going over their wish lists. New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg — all Democrats — have spent some late nights with acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan detailing their requests.

“The administration has to propose things in far more specificity because we can’t,” said Schumer. “We’re working with them to do it.”

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