The House on Friday has passed a bill that will provide $9.7 billion in funding to the National Flood Insurance Program for victims of super-storm Sandy, which is the first part of a $60 billion package the House has considered. With the new Congress’s passage of the first portion of the bill, the remaining $51 billion in aid will be up for consideration on Jan. 15th. The approved bill will now go to the Senate, which plans to pass the bill by unanimous consent so that President Obama will be able to sign it into law quickly, according to aides.
Following protracted fiscal cliff negotiations and the nation’s budgetary woes, lawmakers from devastated regions, including Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey Governor’s Chris Christie, blasted Speaker John Boehner for his unexpected decision to cancel a vote on a Sandy aid package that had been originally scheduled earlier this week in the 112th Congress.
Governor Christie criticized Congress on Wednesday in a press conference: “I think, unfortunately, folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities. It’s absolutely disgraceful…It’s why the American people hate Congress.”
Also on Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency notified Congress that without the approval of additional borrowing authority, money will run out to compensate victims within days, sometime around January 7. Payments on more than 115,000 claims will be delayed until Congress increases borrowing authority, and urged “timely congressional action with regard to the pending supplemental to continue to meet survivor needs.”
Brought up as a “suspension,” the bill received a 2/3 majority to pass—354 approved the bill and 67, all Republicans, opposed. The conservative group “Club for Growth” sent a message to members today asking them to vote against the bill. “Congress should not allow the federal government to be involved in the flood insurance industry in the first place, let alone expand the national flood insurance program’s authority.”
All eyes are now on January 15, as aides expect a base bill of $18 billion to pass, but are unsure whether or not the remaining $33 billion will be approved by House Republicans. Republican members have expressed concern that a large portion of the funds will not go towards direct victims of super-storm Sandy.