January 15th, 2013
07:39 PM ET
1 year ago

House passes $50 billion-plus Sandy aid package

Washington (CNN) - Lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved measures Tuesday to send more than $50 billion in aid to the Northeastern states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy last fall, though some conservatives in the House were pushing for spending cuts that would offset the cost of the recovery package.

The final bill passed 241-180, with 49 Republicans voting for the measure. The package now heads to the Senate.

In a joint statement, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy praised members of the House for pulling together in a "unified, bipartisan coalition" for the vote.

“We anticipate smooth passage when this package moves back to the Senate for final approval and for this long-awaited relief to finally make its way to our residents," they said.

Votes on the large Sandy aid legislation came two weeks after the House approved a $9.7 billion package paying for flood insurance claims following delays over fiscal cliff bickering and consternation over dwindling federal funds.

Altogether, Tuesday's House measures, combined with the flood money approved earlier this month, came close to equaling the $60.4 billion package the Senate passed at the end of last year.

But since this is a new Congress, the Senate will either have to take up the House package or restart with a new bill for the remaining $50 billion in recovery aid, which would further delay distributing money to the affected states.

The baseline measure up for a vote Tuesday provided roughly $17 billion for immediate recovery efforts, including funds directed to transit systems in New York and New Jersey, and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, introduced an amendment to the bill adding almost $34 billion to that figure. Fellow lawmakers from New Jersey and New York have said the combined $50 billion is necessary to provide needed relief for their states, where public transportation systems were damaged and many people's homes were destroyed during Sandy.

Frelinghuysen's amendment was voted upon separately by the House.

Some Republicans, concerned about the high price tag of the Sandy relief bill, introduced amendments calling for spending cuts that would offset the cost of the federal aid. In total, 13 amendments were approved by the House Rules Committee for consideration on the floor.

One of those voted upon – introduced by Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina - called for all of the Sandy aid funding to be completely counterbalanced by equivalent spending cuts. Previously, emergency aid packages, including several measures funding relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, have been passed in Congress without matching spending reductions.

The Mulvaney amendment, however, failed to pass the House Tuesday afternoon.

"We cannot continue to do what we've done in the past, that's how we arrived where we are," Mulvaney said earlier Tuesday on CNN's "Starting Point."

"We have disasters every single year," he continued. "We don't know where they're going to be, but we spend disaster money every single year, something for which we could budget. I'm not against doing this but I think the days of just being able to say 'Okay, let's borrow money from China to do this and that' have come and gone."

Once the baseline bill and the various amendments were passed by the House, they were linked together for final passage.

Two GOP aides had said they expect a significant number of House Republicans to vote against the aid package, but believe that the underlying bill and Frelinghuysen amendment will pass with the help of House Democrats.

At the beginning of January, House Speaker John Boehner scrapped a vote on the large $60 billion Sandy aid package after not including any spending cuts in the deal avoiding the fiscal cliff. GOP leadership sources said Boehner was worried it would be a bad political move for him to allow a vote on the new federal spending after a long day of getting pummeled by his own House Republicans for not demanding enough spending cuts in the cliff bill.

But Boehner's action drew angry blowback, including from Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called to move "disappointing and disgusting to watch." Other New Jersey and New York politicians expressed similar dismay at the delay in voting.

Those same politicians voiced support for the aid package being voted upon Tuesday, saying the funding was necessary for their states, where families remain displaced two and a half months after Sandy hit.

"This is not a Democratic issue, this is not a Republican issue," Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, said. "I just hope that they pull their weight and join with the Democrats to pass this bill."

"I'm counting on my Republicans, with encouragement from the governors, to get sufficient votes to join with the Democrats and pass this bill," she added.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday he expected the package to pass, but criticized Republicans for delaying action on the bill, noting that in previous disasters Congress acted within 15 days of an emergency being declared.

"This will be one of the latest responses to a major disaster and Sandy was in many respects the most significant natural disasters to hit our country," Hoyer said. "Right now we're talking $60 billion – we did over a $100 billion for Katrina so we don't know what the ultimate effect will be. Hopefully it doesn't say this is going to be a pattern for us."

Republican Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey told CNN Monday night that the New York and New Jersey delegations were fanning out to talk to House Republicans who have been critical of the Sandy aid package to urge them to support the measures and not require that the money be offset.

"We're explaining the situation and we wish to be treated as other areas in the country have been treated in the past and we believe our case is excellent," Lance told CNN.

Asked about the chances both pieces would pass, Lance said "I'm hopeful, but I don't count chickens before the eggs are hatched."

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, who helped put both House packages together, told reporters he would vote against amendments put forth by other Republicans to require the disaster assistance bill be paid for by cuts to other programs, saying "This is a true emergency. This is a true catastrophe and to offset the size that they're talking about would devastate the regular agencies. It's just too big to handle except through an emergency process."


Filed under: FEMA • House of Representatives
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    And again, we can just return to the 3 magic words the GOP/Teatrolls should be hearing screamed in their faces for the next 4 years and, partciularly, the next several months:

    WE. DARE. YOU.

    Go ahead, block Sandy relief. See what that gets you.

    January 15, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. FactCheck

    I can't wait until Nov 2014.

    January 15, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. Bill

    The GOP is a party without portfolo, ideas, or common decency. Agreed FactCheck, 2014 can not come soon enough. The American people are fed up with this garbage.

    January 15, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. Outsider.92

    Did the Democrats say that they wouldn't sign this bill unless it was offset by extra taxes?

    January 15, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. ezduzit757

    Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina would be wise to remember that HIS state is much more vulnerable to hurricanes, so he shouldn't be so gung-ho about starting a precident that may be followed when his state is in need of federal disaster funding.

    January 15, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. California Gary

    Anyone that votes against the aid package should have to go spend a week living in one of the destroyed homes with no power......get a real good taste of it.

    January 15, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. lynn

    And yet we send billions to every country in the world with their hand out. We are indeed a country with a big heart and no brains. Take care of our own and let the others take care of their own.

    January 15, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. gt

    give them everything they want... america has tons of money....and you know there is no corruption or graft..in new jersey...or new york...and i am sure the union workers will give back so they can help rebuild ...plus all those poor souls who didnt want to buy flood iinsurance...give them money too...

    January 15, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    We're watching closely GOP. Sandy relief and gun control are front and center & 2014 is right around the corner. Vote wisely!

    January 15, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    You voted for Iraq war whilst Bin Laden in Pakistan–now talk of sandy–do you have brain??? Better vote for sandy–it is my Order.

    January 15, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Moose

    How much more do these people need ??? greed anyone??? no insurance??? any pork on this bill ????

    January 15, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  12. Wake up People!

    Ok I'm slightly confused here. Didn't they just vote for aid for Sandy a few weeks ago?? Why didn't Congress just approve what was needed?? These are citizens of the United States of America not Russia. This HOUSE has to be the most useless in history. What are we paying them for? Obstruction??

    Vote them ALL out in 2014!

    January 15, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Sandy Victims are STILL Struggling and CNN News Anchors have made Obama a Hero for Sandy's Response."

    Obama has done what he could do already. There's really nothing much more that he could possibly do unless and until Congress funds relief. If you don't understand the very simple mechanics of that, you are NOT paying attention.

    January 15, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Rob

    While it is important to budget and no one will deny the country is not doing so hot in this area, but how can this guy say no to the people who's lives were ruined unless there are cuts in the budget to equal the aid? How about this guy cut programs that the federal government pays for in his home state and direct the money to this package. Cancel 2 or 3 fighter jet orders and that should pay for the aid. Or don't cancel them but postpone the delivery time of them. ugh.. disgusting.

    January 15, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. PJ

    Saw a report that said every one of the 67 members of the House that voted against the first relief fund, had or
    are now receiving federal aid for their own States.
    How do you spell hypocrit? T E A P A R T Y.

    January 15, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    The House needs to do something for the victims, both private and public alike. The first House Sandy Relief bill sent a mere $5 million to the 3 NY couinties just north of NYC. That's enough to fulfill the claims of 10-15 homes under the National Flood Insurance Program. That's it, folks.

    That same $5 million is also supposed to go towards repairing the infrastructure damage that those counties sustained. There are still dozens of bucket truck crews roaming the areas repairing poles with license plates from dozens of states: Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, etc.

    It took them 3-4 weeks to fully assess the amount of storm damage to the electrical grid throughout the NYC tri-state area. Around Thanksgiving news stations were reporting over 100,000 poles were *still* in need of replacement or repairs. They still had that many left to repair after nearly a month of work!

    January 15, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. Valerie McClure

    How much PORK is included in the bill? This is one of the reasons our deficit is so high. Some members of Congress seize every opportunity to include money in Bills that have nothing to do with aid in a specific area. This needs to STOP! I am sorry for the people that have not had the help they need but Congress needs to act with some RESPONSIBILITY!

    January 15, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    PathetiCNN wrote:

    Sandy Victims are STILL Struggling and CNN News Anchors have made Obama a Hero for Sandy's Response.
    -----------------
    Oh, so just because organizations like CNN are not citing Pres. Obama for saying "no" to Sandy relief, then those organizations are at fault for something or another? That they're guilty of giving credit where it is not due?

    The right wing in this country must think that people are really stupid. Do they actually think that if they delay relief funds for months, or even not at all, that the public will turn around and blame Pres. Obama for the debacle? It would seem like the right wing is trying to fulfill their promise of making Sandy into Obama's Katrina. Do House Republicans think that the public has not noticed how many votes that have not been held in the House?

    January 15, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. DC Observer

    A man makes $ 6 per day. The same man spends $10 per day. Each day he borrows on his credit card $4 to cover that day's expenses. He continues to do this until his credit card debt is equal to what he makes in a full year and his credit card is maxed out so he can no longer borrow on it. What is the man to do?

    Well, if he is the US, he simply gets a new credit card with a new credit limit, and just continues to borrow 40% of every dollar he spends, and he continues to spend more than he makes every day.

    This little story accurately depicts the state of the US deficit spending, debt ceiling, and debt problem we face today

    PS When the man dies, under current law, his children must assume the debt and pay it off.

    PPS And in the case of the US, the children of American taxpayers will have to pay off the US debt.

    January 15, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. Rick McDaniel

    The bill is full of pork, and should be voted down, unless the pork is removed.

    January 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "This little story accurately depicts the state of the US deficit spending, debt ceiling, and debt problem we face today"

    No it doesn't. You failed to mention the part where the man was actually making $10 per day and covering his expenses just fine, but for no good reason whatsoever went to his employer and said "I really don't give a crap about my $10 per day in expenses, so here, you can reduce my pay to $6 per day. Later, I'll just yell at my credit card company, tell them I have a spending problem, and refuse to pay them, claiming that it's the fault of all my creditors who cost me $10 per day....not my fault for volunterring to have my revenue decreased."

    January 15, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Namerandy

    These guys don't give a damm about anybody but them selfs

    January 15, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. No More Blank Checks

    This aid bill has S C A M written all over it. Vote it down.

    January 15, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    When you criticize long-term planning and preparation expenses meant to lessen the damage, expense and human impact of the foreseeable recurrence of a massive hurricane along the east coast or gulf as "pork," you're just revealnig your myopia and lack of fitness to contribute to the discussion. The same people who yammer constantly about "household budgets" don't want to seal the basement and use tempered glass for the windows after the basement flooded and all the windows got blown out. No no...just pump it out and put cheap glass back in there...lightning couldn't possibly strike twice....

    January 15, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |