Senate holds hostage fisheries relief money

Democrats had proposed a $60.4 billion package to provide emergency funds for mid-Atlantic communities hit hard by Sandy as well as for other disaster-related projects. But Senate Republicans countered Wednesday with a $24 billion package that they claim provides immediate disaster relief to storm-affected areas while giving Congress extra time to vet the other projects.

Two proposals to remove $150 million in funding for fisheries declared as federal disasters – including Maine’s dwindling groundfishery – angered lawmakers from states fighting for the money.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., pointed out that five states in the middle of the U.S. received nearly $40 billion in funding for 68 federally designated disasters between 2004 and 2011.

“We have more than five states asking for $150 million,” Kerry said in response to an earlier attempt to separate out the fisheries money. “I will just say point blank: This legislation is not going to pass without the inclusion of fisheries money.”

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