Reasons the House delayed approval of Sandy disaster relief
The House passed, 354 to 67, a $9.7 billion bill to top off the National Flood Insurance Program and help victims of superstorm Sandy. The timing has been delicate for the GOP-controlled House.
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Pressure from Northeast lawmakers came to bear in a different way as well. The New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut delegations are strongly Democratic, with 34 Democrats in the outgoing Congress, but there were also 13 Republicans in that group. Threats from GOP lawmakers to not back Boehner's reelection bid as speaker in elections Thursday in retaliation for postponing a vote on Sandy aid could have denied him election on the first ballot, putting the outcome in doubt.Skip to next paragraph
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Responding to the pressure, GOP House leaders quickly scheduled a Sandy relief vote on Friday.
The fiscal cliff saga had bearing on the delayed Sandy vote as well. In approving the Senate’s fiscal cliff bill, the House voted to raise income tax rates or the first time in 20 years. The bill also deferred billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts.
These cuts were the price that House Republicans exacted from the White House and Democrat-controlled Senate for raising the debt limit in 2011. Deferring them now was a bitter pill, and 151 Republicans refused to do it, even at the risk of taking the nation into another recession. The fiscal cliff bill passed 257 to 167, mainly supported by Democrats.
Only 85 Republicans supported the bill, with 151 opposed. For a GOP leadership that holds to the principle that no bill comes to the floor that does not have the support of “a majority of the majority,” the fiscal cliff bill was a glaring exception.
That’s why, late Tuesday, Boehner concluded that putting the $60.4 billion, comprehensive Sandy relief bill to a House vote was another divisive fight at the wrong time.
For many conservative Republicans, federal flood insurance is a taxpayer bailout that should be handled by the private sector. Moreover, unrelated spending that had been added to the Senate bill amounted to wasteful member “pork” projects.
All 67 votes opposing the measure were from Republicans, most of whom also opposed the fiscal cliff bill.
Sandy rendered “unspeakable damage,” and the claims in the National Flood Insurance Program “need to be paid and paid now,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, the new chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
But overall, the National Flood Insurance Program is unsustainable, he added. The program is already $20 billion in debt, and adding $9.7 billion to an “insane national debt” ... “threatens our national security, our economic well-being, and our children’s future,” he said. “Emergency bills like this should not come to the floor without offsets to pay for them or structural reforms to ensure that taxpayer bailouts are never needed again,” he said during floor debate on the measure.
The Financial Services panel will overhaul and privatize the National Flood Insurance Program in the new Congress, he added.