A volunteer from Gulfport, Miss., loads a bulldozer with debris that was caused by Hurricane Sandy during relief efforts in Staten Island, N.Y., ahead of a forecasted storm.(Photo: Martin Cuaron, AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- The House on Friday passed the first large aid package
for victims of the deadly Superstorm Sandy that hit the country's most
densely populated region two months ago and led to new concerns about
The vote was 354-67. All the "no" votes came from Republicans.
$9.7 billion measure would clear the way to pay flood insurance claims;
a vote on Sandy aid by the previous, Republican-controlled House of
Representatives was put off earlier this week. New Jersey's famously
outspoken Republican governor, Chris Christie, erupted in response at
his own party and joined New York's Democratic governor in calling the
move a "disgrace."
Trying to keep calm, House Speaker John Boehner
assured angry lawmakers that votes on the states' entire request for
more than $60 billion in aid would be held by the middle of the month.
was blamed for 120 deaths in several states, most in New York and New
Jersey, and it was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane
Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Lawmakers have complained that it took
just 10 days for Congress to approve about $50 billion in aid for
The storm ripped apart the famed New Jersey shore and parts of the New York City area coastline, leaving thousands homeless.
the House of Representatives approves the flood insurance proposal as
expected Friday, the Senate planned to follow with a likely uncontested
vote later in the day.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has
warned that the National Flood Insurance Program will run out of money
next week if Congress doesn't provide additional borrowing authority to
pay out claims. Congress created the FEMA-run program in 1968 because
few private insurers cover flood damage.
Northeastern lawmakers say the money is urgently needed for storm victims awaiting claim checks from the late October storm.
are waiting to be paid," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican, whose
district includes the casino-filled Atlantic City and many other coastal
communities. "They're sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere, and
they're not happy. They want to get their lives back on track, and it's
cold outside. They see no prospect of relief."
Sandy-related flood insurance claims have been filed, FEMA officials
said, and most have yet to be closed out. Many flood victims have
received only partial payments.
The storm damaged or destroyed
more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York,
305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000
businesses were affected.
The flood insurance measure is the first
phase of a proposed Sandy aid package. The House will vote Jan. 15 on
an additional $51 billion in recovery money. Senate action on that
measure is expected the following week.
More than $2 billion in
federal money has been spent so far on relief efforts for 11 states and
the District of Columbia struck by the storm.