$9.7 Billion Sandy Relief Bill Passes House

PHOTO: A beach front home that was severely damaged two months ago by Superstorm Sandy rests in the sand in Bay Head, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.Mel Evans/AP Photo
A beach front home that was severely damaged two months ago by Superstorm Sandy rests in the sand in Bay Head, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

The House of Representatives voted on Friday to provide about $9.7 billion in relief funding to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

The bill provides funding to the National Flood Insurance program by increasing the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) borrowing authority. FEMA, which administers the program, had warned that it would run out of funding for Sandy relief next week. Most of the nearly $10 billion will go to Sandy disaster relief.

The money will help homeowners whose houses were damaged and destroyed by flooding during the storm. Many communities, especially those along the New Jersey coastline, were decimated by the intense rain and floodwater brought on by Sandy.

The House is expected to take up additional relief packages on January 15. If those pass, total relief will amount to about $60 billion. Any legislation will also have to go the Senate for approval.

See Also: No House Vote on Sandy Relief Package

The Senate passed one $60 billion bill at the end of the last session of Congress, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the man in charge of the House schedule, declined to place a Sandy relief vote on the schedule. Legislation does not carry over to the new session of Congress, which began on Thursday, meaning any relief bill will have to be reintroduced in the Senate.

The failure to take up Sandy relief during the last Congress drew immediate fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, and New York and New Jersey lawmakers took the opportunity during Friday's House deliberations to reiterate their disappointment.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) and others from the region criticized the bill for being incomplete.

"Today's legislation is a start, only a first step, toward providing relief to those who suffered through Hurricane Sandy…We need this complete bill," she said, reminding the Speaker that he has promised that the House will vote on an additional $51 billion in relief funding by January 15.

Rep. Chris Gibbs (R-New York) said he supported the bill and cited its bipartisan appeal.

"We need to continue that," he said, urging lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work together on issues in the new Congress.

Some, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) were critical of the bill that previously passed the Senate for containing provisions that could have aided people as far away from the storm as Sandy.

We need to "get the pork out," Issa said, saying he supported Friday's bill but wants to make sure any future legislation is free of pork.

One woman who called into CSPAN during the deliberations said the whole issue has encouraged people who don't ordinarily follow politics to begin to pay attention.

"Because of politics and nonsense, we're being tossed aside," she said, "and it's just not fair."