Congress to Vote on Superstorm Sandy Flood Aid
At last, the storm-racked Northeast is getting a House floor vote on billions in disaster relief aid for victims of October’s Superstorm Sandy, but only after a host of East Coast Republican lawmakers threatened a near mutiny against GOP Speaker John Boehner.
A $9.7 billion measure to pay flood insurance claims, which amounts to just a down payment on a multibillion aid commitment, is expected to be approved by the House on Friday, boosting prospects for relief for the many home and business owners devastated by the storm. If the House acts as expected, the Senate plans to follow with a likely uncontested vote later in the day.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warns 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.
The flood insurance measure is the first phase of a proposed Sandy aid package. Under Boehner’s new schedule, the House will vote Jan. 15 on an additional $51 billion in recovery money. Senate action on that measure is expected the following week. Fiscally pressured local governments are awaiting that money.
Northeast lawmakers say the money is urgently needed for storm victims awaiting claim checks from the late October storm, which was one of the worst ever to strike the Northeast, ravaging the coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the most severe flooding occurring in Atlantic City, N.J., New York City and Long Island and along the Connecticut coastline.
"People are waiting to be paid," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., whose district includes Atlantic City and many other coastal communities hard hit by the storm. "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."
Boehner had promised a House vote on Friday after his decision to delay an action on a broader Sandy relief package provoked outrage from Northeast Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said he’d lost trust in GOP leaders in Congress after being promised a vote earlier this week.