First part of Sandy relief bill passes House overwhelmingly

WASHINGTON — The first part of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill passed the House overwhelmingly on Friday, providing $9.7 billion for flood insurance to affected areas.

The passage of the bill caps off a week of hot-tempered speeches and threats from members of the New York and New Jersey delegation, prompted by Speaker John Boehner’s decision not to bring the $60 billion relief package passed by the Senate to the floor before the close of the 112th Congress.

Rep. Peter King of New York slammed Boehner’s decision, suggesting Wednesday morning that donors in New York or New Jersey cease to give money to House Republicans; Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said he might abstain from voting for Boehner as speaker; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ripped Boehner in a scathing speech Wednesday. King said the speech was actually a toned down version of the expletives Christie had been throwing around the night before, when Boehner announced the House would not vote on the passage of the bill.

Tempers cooled later on Wednesday when Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised the members of the New York and New Jersey delegations to bring the vote to the floor in two parts. The $9.7 billion package passed Friday, and the rest of the original package, $51 billion, will be brought up on Jan. 15.

Nonetheless, there remained concerns that Republicans might balk at the idea of passing a relief bill in the wake of the fiscal cliff compromise — the reason why Boehner opted not to bring the bill up in the 112th Congress Tuesday night.

The Club for Growth flagged it as a key vote that would be included in its ratings of members of congress and urged lawmakers to vote no.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling said in a floor speech before the vote that the bill forced a “tragic choice” for members of Congress, between helping victims of the hurricane and adding to the national debt.

“A great physical tragedy of today should never become an even greater fiscal tragedy for our children tomorrow,” said Hensarling, who ultimately voted in favor of the bill.

The bill passed overwhelmingly, 354-67, with all 67 nay votes coming from Republicans.

Anger still remains among some lawmakers over the delay in passage, which requires that the bill now be sent back to the Senate, since the Senate’s original bill has now expired.

“The victims of Superstorm Sandy have now become victims of the dysfunctional Republican House Majority, and it’s simply outrageous,” said Democratic New York Rep. Caroline Maloney in a statement, slamming the need to now return the bill to the Senate.

“I hope the Senate approves it, but hope isn’t enough for the 17 million people who need help,” she added.

Nonetheless, she told The Daily Caller after that she remained “optimistic” that the remaining $51 billion package would pass the House.

“I never predict what the House of Representatives is going to do, you never know, but I’m always optimistic and it’s the right thing to do, so I believe we’ll get the votes,” she said.

UPDATE: The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent.

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