House Supports $17 Billion in Aid for Hurricane Sandy Victims
The House supported $17 billion in emergency aid for Hurricane Sandy victims two weeks after Northeast Republicans denounced Speaker John Boehner’s cancellation of an earlier vote.
By a 327-91 vote, the House agreed to the provision that includes $5.4 billion for victims’ immediate needs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Later yesterday, the House plans to consider an additional $33.7 billion in reconstruction spending to make rail tunnels and buildings less vulnerable to flooding in future storms.
Congress passed a $9.7 billion first installment of emergency aid Jan. 4. Altogether, the plan would total $60.4 billion.
“There is a federal responsibility to act,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma. “We have a national interest in getting this region on its feet as quickly as possible.”
Residents of the three states “produce over 17 percent of the wealth of this country,” Cole said, so “having that area up and operational and prospering is critical to the prosperity of the country.”
Sandy struck the Northeast on Oct. 29, packing hurricane-force winds and driving flood waters that killed more than 125 people in 10 states. It inundated New York City’s subway system and ravaged shore communities from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to Bridgeport, Conn.
The region’s Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, protested when Boehner canceled a planned Jan. 1 vote on the package during the previous congressional session’s final days. They noted that Congress passed $51.8 billion in relief within 10 days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, then scheduled a vote Jan. 4, the second day of the new session.
That day, the House and Senate agreed to raise the national flood-insurance program’s borrowing authority by $9.7 billion.
That enabled the flood-insurance program to continue paying 120,000 claims from property owners in the Northeast whose homes and businesses were damaged by flooding caused by Sandy.
Yesterday’s debate reflected divisions about financing the disaster relief.
Disaster-aid legislation “shouldn’t be used as a grab-bag of spending having nothing to do with emergency relief,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from California.
Citing a Congressional Budget Office analysis, McClintock complained that most of the $60.4 billion package “won’t even be spent this year.”