By Steve Mosco
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $9.7 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill Friday following sharp criticism from New York and New Jersey officials after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) canceled the initial late night vote earlier this week.
The bill, approved on a 354-67 vote, will enable the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay out claims to those victims who have federal flood insurance. The Senate is expected to adopt it later Friday on a unanimous voice vote.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said he was pleased the bill passed but was weary of the political battle over what he hopes will be more aid.
“This action, however, is woefully insufficient in addressing the significant concerns and needs of millions affected by last fall’s storm,” he said. “I hope sincerely that the Republican leadership honors its commitment to holding a vote on the rest of disaster relief funding on Jan. 15, for we must act swiftly to ensure millions do not continue to suffer under the yoke of partisanship.”
All 67 of the nay votes can from Republicans.
A vote on the much larger $60.4 billion aid package was canceled just before Congress wrapped up its last session Jan. 1. Lawmakers in the new Congress who were sworn in Thursday will meet on the remaining $51 million in aid Jan. 15.
Queens politicians blasted Republicans in the House Wednesday for failing to vote on a recovery package that would help New York and other states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy rebuild. The superstorm hit New York and New Jersey Oct. 29.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), whose district was devastated by the storm, said Wednesday he was not happy the House chose to do nothing when its members had the opportunity to help people who suffered Sandy’s wrath.
“The people affected by the storm, they needed the money yesterday, they needed it eight weeks ago,” he said. “There are some issues with the details of the bill, some political and some fiscal. But all those reasons don’t outweigh the need for residents to get the assistance they need. Politics should never come before the people and their needs.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546._