House Passes $51 Billion Sandy Relief Bill

78 days after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, the House passed a $51 billion package to provide the region with emergency relief as well as funding to undertake long-term structural repairs

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JUSTIN LANE / EPA

Peter Gill, center, works with his father James, left, and friend Mark Faljean to repair his home, which was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, in the New Dorp neighborhood of Staten Island, N.Y., on Jan. 15, 2013

Seventy-eight days after Hurricane Sandy socked the Northeast, the House on Tuesday night passed a $51 billion aid package designed to provide the stricken region with emergency relief as well as funding to undertake long-term structural repairs.

The House approved the bill by a vote of 241 to 180. It garnered nearly unanimous support from Democrats but required the help of 49 Republicans, many of whom hail from districts devastated by the Oct. 29 storm, to nudge it over the line. The measure is expected to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate when the upper chamber returns to Washington next week.

The House bill comes on top of the nearly $10 billion allocated to replenish flood-insurance programs earlier this month and makes up the balance of the $60 billion aid package sought by the White House and passed by the Senate late last year. Late on New Year’s Eve, House Speaker John Boehner scuttled the Senate bill when restive rank-and-file Republicans bristled at including nonemergency spending, including provisions Republicans considered to be earmarks, into an emergency disaster-relief bill. The episode sparked recriminations between Northeastern Republicans and their more conservative colleagues. That spat may be over, but the bitter fight is a sign of strife to come as Congress edges toward a series of budget showdowns in February and March that holds the health of the U.S. economy in the balance.

(MORE: Fear of Earmarks Sparks Split in Sandy Aid Bill)

The House’s Sandy relief bill was broken into two main components, both sponsored by Republicans. The first package, a $17 billion tranche composed mostly of short-term emergency funding for communities whacked by the historic storm, was authored by Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman from Kentucky. The larger and more controversial amendment, authored by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, drew objections from House Republicans because it contained some $12 billion in long-term development projects that was open to nearly all states. While Rogers’ package sailed through the House, Frelinghuysen’s amendment passed narrowly, winning the support of just 38 House Republicans.

It was the second time in two weeks, following the fiscal-cliff deal, that Boehner was forced to pass a major piece of legislation with a majority of votes from Democrats. The practice is in violation of what is known as the Hastert Rule (named for Boehner’s predecessor), which dictates that the Speaker only bring to the floor bills that have the support of the majority of the ruling party.

But while Republicans may control the House, their fractious conference has proved incapable of governing. The 112th Congress passed the fewest bills on record. Much of its time was spent defusing self-inflicting crises, as it crept to the brink of a government shutdown and a cataclysmic default on the nation’s debt. The Sandy relief package, the first major legislation of the new Congress, is a signal that the lower chamber may yet be more chaotic this session. Even the seemingly unassailable cause of disaster relief was jeopardized by conservatives’ cost-cutting fervor. Ninety-two amendments were filed to jettison or offset spending provisions members deemed unnecessary. The morass threatened the bill’s passage before the House Rules Committee, effectively controlled by Boehner, deemed the majority of amendments out of order late Monday night. Only 12 were permitted to reach the floor.

PHOTOS: Flooded, Uprooted, Burned: The Tracks of Sandy on the Shore

17 comments
j45ashton
j45ashton

What I think is that there ought to be reasonable federal guidelines that keep any party from drawing districts that skew congressionl election results in their favor. 

Disinterested
Disinterested

Instead of the massive "borrowed money giveaway" for disasters, Americans should insist their government loan affected states the money directly for use, with defined repayment rules in place.  States that know the money must be returned to the U.S. taxpayers will be far more interested in making proper use of the funds instead of making all the area disaster residents rich.  

superlogi
superlogi

It tells us the difference between professional politicians who vote their jobs vs. politicians who vote their consciences.  

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

It tells me Congress hasn't changed.  Allowing pork is still a priority to too many in Congress.  Term limits are needed.  Maybe a line item veto for the President.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

One comment on the floor is very poignant. It was something like "and God bless you Florida if you don't think you won't have another hurricane". What these petty, ignorant, and selfish legislators from the tea party districts don't understand is that there is supposed to be community in the United States. It's not 'what can I get and screw you'. They use the debt argument now to argue everything, but were nowhere to be found when we racked up debt for Iraq. They are continuing to push this agenda and I think they have not clearly seen the end game, which very well may be that we pay less tax but have a government that does very little for us (infrastructure, schools, hospitals, health care, social security). They seem to think that at some point the Dems are going to capitulate and give up social security, food stamps, unemployment, Medicare, etc.....but what the Dems are going to capitulate on is money going to the red states because they already get more than they contribute, so they may be the first to be cut, as well as big armament programs that save significant money in a few stokes of the pen.

falerin
falerin

The Hastert rule is an abomination anyway. It is a tyranny of the majority. If one brings to the floor bills that are unpopular with the majority party they will pass or not pass based upon an actual vote of the congress. Which is the way congress is supposed to function.

jmac
jmac

Boehner rolled over on this one and allowed the Hastert Rule to be broken due to public pressure.    It was our press that stepped to the plate.  I wish Friedman would come over and read Time.  He's again on his high horse 'narrative of intransigence on both sides'  and wants Obama to perform miracles.  Obama can only perform what he can get through Congress and what he can do legally with the powers that he has.   

j45ashton
j45ashton

179 Republicans voted against the aid.  I know what Paul,nnto is saying when you take getting 'primaried' into account.  But look at this vote and you can see that 179 Republicans is about 80% of the Republicans in the house.  Far from a minority.  If you take a look at the article by Nate Silver that explains Republican votes in the House, you'll see that these Republicans actually are representing the feelings of their constituencies.  This is largely due to gerrymandering.  At the state level, where Republicans have taken control of legislatures and governor positions, they have rejiggered districts so that Republican majorities can be achieved in maximum numbers of districts.  How do you do that?  Easy.  Where there is heavy Democratic concentration you break this areas into pieces and incorporate within neighboring areas where there are Republican majorities.  Where there is a huge Democratic concentration, you allow a big piece of this area to go democratic.  Then for the rest, you carefully balance things so that you divide remaining democratic concentrations so that they're distributed into heavily Republican areas.  The Republicans have taken advantage of their current local advantages to the max.  Unless enforceable national guidelines for redistricting are put in place, Republicans will be very hard to beat throughout the south, mid west & Plains states within congressional districts (small areas) . However, when large areas come into play...like the whole nation or whole states...local gerrymandering is meaningless.  These elections should true majority sentiment.  That is why the Democrats will continue to take the White House and the Senate for many years to come.  But the future holds nothing but more intransigent negotiating & gridlock.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

"But while Republicans may control the House, their fractious conference has proven incapable of governing"

And that, in 15 words, explains so much of what is wrong with our country. Weakest Speaker of my life combined with the strongest elected faction of my life.  The minority of the majority runs the House. 




falerin
falerin

@j45ashton I actually agree with you on redistricting. But I wonder, do you think that elected officials should NOT follow the will of their constituencies. That is why they are "representatives".


jmac
jmac

@Paul,nnto Republicans made him the weakest speaker with their insistence on dominance and the Hastert Rule.  Pelosi didn't use it.  No one thinks she was a weak speaker simply because she let the House vote and the chips fall where they may.  That's the way it's suppose to work, Paul.  Boehner's trying to save your skin in the mid-terms by being reasonable and you can't even see it through the fog of partisanship.  Clinton took seats in his last mid-term because Republicans with impeachment ran crazy with their power.   

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@falerin @j45ashton It is an age old dilemma.  Do they literally follow their constituents?  If so, we don't really need them, install an internet system of representation!   (Not a bad idea, we don't need to pay their salaries, etc).  They also are supposed to know more than their constituents (secrets, the rules, the precedents, how stuff works, etc) so they are supposed to be more enlightened (key word is 'supposed').  They should be alert to the big picture, like their district might not need help today, who knows about next week?  Or having a depth of knowledge about foreign risks.   I hope that they vote understanding the big picture as well as trying to do the best for their folks at home.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@jmac @Paul,nnto  "Boehner's trying to save your skin in the mid-terms by being reasonable and you can't even see it through the fog of partisanship"


Could you expand on that, please. I didn't follow. 


falerin
falerin

@notLostInSpace @falerin @j45ashton I would concur. We are not a direct democracy for a reason but many of those reasons are no longer valid. The founding fathers assumed that the public was uninformed and incapable of making intelligent governing decisions. The problem is that the current system may as well be a direct democracy anyway. The public certainly is informed now and they are putting representatives in place that mirror exactly their own opinions. I would hope that representatives do vote based on the good of the Nation (and even the global community) and not merely the local community. The fact is however, with policies like the Hastsert rule in place tyranny of a small number is very easy anyway.