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November 12, 2012

Fishing aid tied to fed budget talks

The lame duck session of the 112th Congress begins today, giving lawmakers and President Obama a month of workdays to play what sets up as a legislative stare-down, bordered by the proverbial cliff of sequestration — trillions of dollars in automatic budget cuts that were programmed to click in if a debt reduction compromise cannot be struck.

Overshadowed by the scale of the pieces in play on the national chess board — trillions in budget cuts, tens if not hundreds of billions in potential tax cuts lost and gained, and unspecified help for Hurricane Sandy’s victims and farm victims of drought — is a unified effort by the New England and New York congressional delegations to place a marker for $100 million for disaster assistance for fishermen and fishing communities.

That cause seemed a perfect fit for a program President Obama outlined in his Friday news conference.

“It’s a plan to reward small businesses and manufacturers that create jobs here, not overseas,” said the President describing his target for help.

“Sounds like the fishing industry,” said Kathryn Prael, spokeswoman for Rep. John Tierney, who was re-elected last Tuesday to a ninth term from the 6th District which includes Cape Ann.

How the fishing aid, an easy to remember round number, gets into an agreed-upon spending bill, if there is to be one, is uncertain.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who took it upon himself to circulate a letter before the election recess behind a $100 million aid plan, did not respond Friday to a query for strategic plans. Kerry’s office, however, did forward the letter which was signed by the senators and shoreline representatives from the five coastal New England states and New York — all of which were included in a declaration of a fisheries disaster issued in September. The declaration came roughly a year after Gov. Deval Patrick first filed evidence that federal fisheries policies pushed by NOAA and Jane Lubchenco had brought the industry in his state to its knees.

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