Congress will vote on Sandy aid this week, says Boehner (+video)
House Speaker John Boehner rescheduled a vote on Sandy relief funding for Friday at the urging of lawmakers from the storm's hardest hit regions. The funding is slated to go toward immediate relief for victims as well as rebuilding efforts.
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The $9 billion in flood insurance money to be voted on Friday was originally in the $27 billion measure. The votes on Jan. 15 will be for $18 billion in immediate assistance and $33 billion for longer-term projects, including projects to protect against future storms, King said.Skip to next paragraph
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Much of the money in the proposals is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. The aid is intended to help states rebuild public infrastructure such as roads and tunnels and help thousands of people displaced from their homes.
Some $5.4 billion is for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, $5.4 billion is to help transit agencies in New York and New Jersey rebuild and another $3.9 billion is for the Housing and Urban Development Department's development fund to repair hospitals, utilities and small businesses.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was among those sharply criticizing Boehner before the speaker changed course.
Christie said he was frustrated after Boehner withdrew the bill Tuesday night and tried to call him four times that night, but none of the calls were returned. Christie complained about the "toxic internal politics" of the House majority. Christie said he had worked hard to persuade House members to support Sandy aid, and was given assurances by GOP leaders that the bill would be voted on before Thursday.
"There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me," Christie said before Boehner announced there would be votes this month.
King had branded Boehner's initial decision to pull the bill a "cruel knife in the back" to New York and New Jersey.
King was among an angry chorus of New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both parties who blasted Boehner, with some saying his move was a "betrayal."
In considering the Sandy aid package, the speaker was caught between conservative lawmakers who want to offset any increase in spending and Northeast and mid-Atlantic lawmakers determined to help their states recover more than two months after the storm hit.
The criticism of Boehner on the House floor was personal at times, and reflected in part the frustration among the rank-and-file over the decision to press ahead with a vote on the fiscal cliff deal engineered by the White House and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Boehner had been struggling with conservatives who complained that the economic package didn't include enough spending cuts.
Reps. Michael Grimm, a Republican, and Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said in angry House floor remarks that while they did not agree on much, Boehner's decision amounted to a "betrayal" and a crushing blow to states battered by the storm.
President Barack Obama also called for an immediate House vote. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raised the political temperature even more. She said Boehner should come to Staten Island and the Rockaways to explain his decision to families whose homes and businesses were destroyed. "But I doubt he has the dignity nor the guts to do it," Gillibrand said.