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Hurricane Sandy Bill Amendments Offer Insight on Congress

Tuesday, 15 Jan 2013 | 4:27 PM ET
A destroyed home is viewed along the beach in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of New York City.
Getty Images
A destroyed home is viewed along the beach in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of New York City.

Want to know what's on the mind of your members of Congress? Maybe the best way to find out is to look at the list of proposed amendments to the Hurricane Sandy relief bill in the House, a sprawling range of issues that amounts to a snap poll of what they're worried about on Capitol Hill right now.

Among the amendments offered were those focused on foreign aid, gun violence, and Treasury bonds.

Think Hurricane Sandy just affected the United States? Well, one amendment would have had a global impact: Amendment #79 would have zeroed out all foreign aid and assistance except for Israel or Pakistan as a way of offsetting the $50-plus billion cost of the aid bill.

(Read More: Scenes From Hurricane Sandy.)

Or were you under the impression that Hurricane Sandy and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were politically unrelated? Not quite so under one amendment: Number 82 would knock down a measure that the amendment's sponsor said "effectively prevents the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from conducting research or statistical analysis related to gun violence."

Rep. Mulvaney's Proposes Cuts to Pay For Sandy Relief
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, (R-SC), discusses the House debate on aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, and why any proposed spending must be offset by cuts to Federal programs.

But amendment #86 prohibits "funds in this act from being used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."

What's the connection between Hurricane Sandy and the Treasury bill market? Amendment #27 would have ordered the Treasury Department to "conduct a study of interest in the potential issuance of 70-99 year Government bonds. Depending on market interest, Treasury is instructed to issue such long duration bonds as appropriate."

(Read More: Fiscal Hawks Link Spending Cuts to Hurricane Sandy Aid.)

Not all of the amendments submitted to the bill were allowed to receive a vote in the House—only 13 of the 94 amendments initially proposed were ruled in order and moved to the floor. In the end, those amendments were limited just to those that would increase or decrease spending for particular items in the bill—and foreign aid, gun rights and 99-year government bonds didn't make the grade.

But the main thing that seems to be on the minds of the members of Congress offering amendments to the Sandy bill is excess federal spending. Several of the amendments offered were designed to cut funding for specific items their sponsors considered unnecessary, including amendment #40, which would "prohibit distribution of funds to deceased persons." (That amendment was not ruled in order.)

(Read More: You Disgust Me, Christie Tells Boehner in Storm Over Aid.)

Or there's amendment #50, which would cut $4.2 billion from the Fish and Wildlife Service "or installing new water control equipment on two islands in North Carolina that were not damaged by Hurricane Sandy."

The sponsor of that measure, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., did not get that amendment through to the floor, but he did get another one. Fleming's amendment #49 would cut $9.8 million from the Fish and Wildlife Service for "rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut."

—By CNBC's Eamon Javers; Follow him on Twitter: @eamonjavers

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