Congress finally passes scaled-back Hurricane Sandy aid bill
The House on Friday voted, 354-67, to pass legislation that would provide the National Flood Insurance Program with $9.7 billion to pay out flood claims stemming from Hurricane Sandy. The Senate passed the bill hours later, ending, for now at least, a drama that saw House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) publicly put through a wood-chipper by members of his own party for tabling a $60 billion version of the legislation passed by the Senate.
Boehner's decision to spike the larger bill came shortly after the House passed the fiscal-cliff deal that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans — a bitter pill to swallow for many in his caucus. Boehner reportedly concluded that he would have a bloody rebellion on his hands if he followed the tax hike with a bill asking for $60 billion in new spending, particularly since some House GOP members had demanded that the emergency aid be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget. Boehner and his cohort were consequently lambasted by Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who blamed the hold-up on the "toxic internal politics of the House majority."
And the controversy won't end with this latest bill passage. The House still has to consider an additional $50 billion in requested aid that was included in the original Senate bill. "Today was just a down payment," Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement, "and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill." It remains to be seen whether Boehner can get his unruly caucus to go along. Many House Republicans claim that the aid bill is stuffed with unrelated pork.
The $9.7 billion aid package passed today could also bring a future political fallout. All 67 naysayers were Republicans, the most prominent of whom was Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), widely considered to be a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. "In a time of crisis, we must ensure that every dollar we spend is on those who need it," Ryan said in a statement. "President Obama and Congress owe the people of New York and New Jersey better."