After House Speaker John Boehner,R-Ohio, shelved a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief funding late on Tuesday evening and endured scathing criticism from Northeast Republicans in the days following, the House of Representatives passed a $9.7 billion aid package Friday to pay victims' flood insurance claims.
The bill passed in a 354-67 vote with 67 Republicans dissenting. The bill is the first part of a proposed $60 billion aid package that has passed the Senate and is expected to meet fierce opposition from Republicans in the House later in January.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called the legislation's passage "a good first step" on Andrea Mitchell Reports Friday, but added "I thought the shenanigans that went on in the house were indefensible. I was outraged that we were going to put politics before people. And I hope now that we’ve now learned that this is not what Congress is supposed to do."
The larger funding request, passed by the Senate in late December, would pay to repair public transportation systems and damaged buildings and to clean up debris, among other things. House Republicans charge that it's too hefty a price tag, and that some initiatives are only tangentially related to storm damage.
Speaker Boehner abandoned the scheduled vote on Tuesday night after the fiscal cliff negotiations took the House late into the evening. With debate over the national debt and government spending the number one issue in Congress as it negotiates over raising the debt ceiling or risking default, the January 15th vote on the remaining $50.3 billion in aid is bound to meet Republican opposition.
Despite the bill's relatively easy passage in Congress on Friday, frustration remains high on the Hill.
DCCC Chairman and New York Congressman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., faulted House Republicans in an interview with Andrea Mitchell on Friday.
"Anything that they can get wrong, they will do wrong," Israel said. "Leave it to them to do in three steps what they should have done in one step."
Israel expressed little confidence that the entire $60 billion aid package would pass Congress. "Any little setback can be turned into a disaster," Israel said. "I'll believe it when i see it."