US House passes $50.5bn in Sandy aid

2013-01-16 12:25
Snow from a northeaster storm coats homes burned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in New York City. (Mario Tama, Getty Images/AFP)

Snow from a northeaster storm coats homes burned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in New York City. (Mario Tama, Getty Images/AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved $50.5bn in long-delayed federal disaster aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy, but not before Republicans flexed their budget-cutting muscle to strike some spending provisions.

The aid package for the storm that ravaged New York and New Jersey coastlines now moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is expected to win swift passage.

The legislation had been tied up for weeks in the House amid congressional brawling over US deficit reduction, spending and taxes in the New Year's new fiscal drama.

And surprisingly stiff opposition from Republicans in the 241-180 vote foreshadows a tough road ahead for winning House approval of future budget deals over the debt limit and other looming fiscal deadlines.

East Coast politicians abandoned their recently frustrated tone and expressed relief at the House vote.

"The tradition of Congress of being there and providing support for Americans in times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today's vote in the House of Representatives," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said in a joint statement.

The House approved the aid in two parts - $17bn in funds to cover immediate disaster relief needs and $33.5bn in longer-term reconstruction funds. The longer-term funds drew more opposition from House Republicans who saw it as loaded with spending that was unnecessary or that would take years to occur.

Higher tax rates

Republicans managed to whittle the package down slightly by eliminating $150m in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant money as well as striking $9.8m for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in a Connecticut wildlife reserve.

The House defeated a Republican attempt to require $17bn in across-the-board spending cuts for fiscal 2013 to pay for part of the aid package.

Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, reflecting strong desire in his party to force spending cuts after accepting higher tax rates on the wealthy, said he did not want to fund the aid with borrowed money.

"It is important to me that this money goes to the folks that need it very badly. It's so important to me that we should pay for it," Mulvaney said in debate on the House floor.

The vote follows Congress' 4 January passage of $9.7bn in initial funds to keep the National Flood Insurance Programme solvent and to pay homeowners' flood claims from Sandy. The funds approved on Tuesday bring total House-approved Sandy aid to $60.2bn, just shy of earlier proposals.

But the bulk of the federal aid for victims of the 29 October storm that killed more than 130 people and destroyed thousands of homes was tied up in controversy.

Cancelled vote

House Speaker John Boehner infuriated New York and New Jersey politicians on 1 January when he cancelled a vote for a previous, Senate-passed $60.4 billion version of the legislation amid Republican angst over accepting higher tax rates on the wealthy in a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

The move prompted howls of protest that the largely Democratic East Coast states were being treated much more harshly than the Gulf Coast states that suffered massively from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Just 10 days after that storm, Congress had approved $62bn in federal disaster aid.

It was clear from House floor debate and public statements that these lawmakers were still steamed about the wait, which they said has delayed reconstruction work.

"The families affected by Sandy are in their hour of need. They have waited far too long for this institution to act," said Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat.

Noting the current "precarious fiscal times," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said the panel had given the legislation "a good scrub and we have adjusted funding levels to make the best use of taxpayer dollars".

Among these changes were elimination of funds for damaged fisheries in Alaska and on the Gulf Coast, as well as cutting funding for other disasters such as western US wildfires.

Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, in an opinion piece in the Washington Times, asked whether the bar for disaster funding was continually being lowered.

"As we continue to borrow more than 30c on the dollar, much of it from the Chinese, can and should the federal government continue to fund the restoration of private homes, businesses and automobiles?" Hensarling wrote.

Read more on:    us  |  us superstorm

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


For the love of Corgis!

WATCH: 35 Corgi's to make your day! If they’re good enough for the Queen of England they’re good enough for us.



Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
WATCH: These funny animal videos will make you LOL!
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.