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House Approves $9.7 Billion of Proposed Superstorm Sandy Aid

The House of Representatives has approved almost $10 billion in aid for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, a portion of the $60.4 billion package already approved by the Senate, months after the storm hit the northeast. Newly re-elected House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised that a vote on the remaining balance of more than $50 billion in federal relief would come on Jan. 15, when Congress reconvenes.

Once the bill is signed into law by President Barack Obama, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will receive additional funding to pay out claims to victims with federal flood insurance. New York and New Jersey Republicans and Democrats alike criticized Boehner’s decision to cancel a vote on the bill late Tuesday night, believing it to be long overdue.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker John Boehner,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters on Wednesday. “I called the speaker four times. He did not take my calls.”

Another New Jersey Republican, Representative Peter King, commented on the ongoing plight of Sandy’s victims. “This is a crisis of unimaginable proportions,” King said according to Reuters. “If you saw the suffering that’s going on, if you saw the people who don’t have food and shelter, you’d realize how horrible this is.”

Following the approval of the fiscal cliff deal on Tuesday, Boehner cancelled the vote on what is a major spending bill. The initial funding passed by a count of 354-67 in the House, with dissenters comprised of GOP members who believe that the National Flood Insurance Program should be leveraged by spending cuts in other areas. Republicans will have more time to consider the remaining funding, which is split into $17 billion for immediate aid and $33 billion for long term plans. For supporters of the bill, the full balance of relief can’t come any sooner.

“It took only 10 days after Katrina for President (George W.) Bush to sign $60 billion in Katrina aid,” New Jersey Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell said, according to Reuters. “How dare you come to this floor and make people think everything is OK.”

Sandy struck the northeast in late October, causing more than $65 billion in damage. The National Flood Insurance Program is currently operating with about $20 billion in debt and FEMA had previously announced that it would run out of funding to pay back insurance claims next week without the additional $9.7 billion in borrowing capacity.

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