Congress to vote on Sandy aid as FEMA warns funds low
(CNN) — The House is poised to vote Friday on a $9.7 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package after delays over fiscal cliff bickering and a warning from federal officials that funds are running out.
Frustrated victims of the massive October storm in the Northeast watched this week as a vote on a much larger $60 billion package got canceled.
Lawmakers are expected to pass the first portion Friday and weigh in on the remaining $51 billion in broader aid on January 15.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency notified the outgoing Congress on Tuesday — its last day in session — that without additional borrowing authority, it will run out of money within days to compensate storm victims under the National Flood Insurance Program.
The large aid package not voted on included more than $9.7 billion in new borrowing authority, according to the federal emergency agency.
It urged “timely congressional action” to meet survivors’ needs.
Outgoing lawmakers dropped what seemed like a sure thing for the suffering region into the lap of the new Congress, which convened Thursday. It will now consider it in two parts.
Republicans in the last Congress criticized proposed congressional “pork” spending in the bill that was unrelated to Sandy needs.
Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the region, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, had unleashed a firestorm of criticism at their own party in the House for not addressing the measure as originally planned.
“New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display,” Christie said, adding, that this is “why the American people hate Congress.”
Later, closed-door meetings with House Republicans from the Northeast and their leaders Eric Cantor and John Boehner calmed some sentiments.
Boehner is the House speaker while Cantor is the Majority leader.
Democrats were less mollified.
“It’s really unbelievable how Speaker Boehner and his party could just walk away,” said Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council. “To promise us a vote weeks from now? Why should we believe him at all? It’s just shocking.”
In a statement, Boehner and Cantor said “critical aid” to storm victims should be the first priority of the new Congress. Both were re-elected and have retained their leadership positions in the new House.
The Senate, which had already approved the larger Sandy plan that the House declined to consider, is expected to sign off on the scaled-back version Friday as well, according to a Democratic leadership aide.
But Senators will hold off on any further action.