Congress Approves Nearly $10 Billion to Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy; More Needed, Many Say

This picture was taken Friday in the Staten Island borough of New York City.  In parts of some neighborhoods, it still looks as if Sandy just hit.

On Friday, after putting it off for three days, Congress finally approved $9.7 billion in financial aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

That will allow the federal government to continue to pay out money to people whose homes were destroyed by Sandy’s flooding.

But many lawmakers are still angry at House Speaker John Boehner for delaying the vote – including some fellow Republicans.

“People are waiting to be paid,” said New Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo, one of those Republicans, in an interview with the Associated Press.  “They’re sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere.  And they’re not happy.  They want to get their lives back on track.  And … they see no prospect of relief.”

Sandy wiped out hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses — including many in LoBiondo’s own congressional district.

The storm did its worst damage along the Atlantic coast in New Jersey and New York.

And in some neighborhoods, it still looks as if it happened just yesterday.

“This is a crisis of unimaginable proportions,” said New York Congressman Peter King, another Republican, in an interview with Reuters news service.

King’s district includes much of Long Island — an area where some people are still living in homes with no electricity because of Sandy – or no homes at all.

“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,” he said.

On New Year’s Day, the House had been expected to vote on a $60 billion aid package for Sandy’s victims.

But after the “fiscal cliff” vote that night, Speaker Boehner decided to shut things down – apparently because some other Republicans didn’t think it was the right time to approve more government spending.

His decision sparked outrage from colleagues whose constituents are still desperate for help.

“It took only ten days after (Hurricane) Katrina (in 2005) for President Bush to sign $60 billion in Katrina aid,” said New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, a Democrat, in a report by Reuters.  “How dare you come to this (House) floor and make people think everything is OK.”

Boehner eventually gave in and scheduled Friday’s vote.

67 Republicans voted against the bill on Friday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, they included Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan – last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee.

Later in the day, after the Senate approved the bill on a voice vote, it went directly to President Obama.

And he was expected to sign it quickly.

Boehner says the House will vote on the remaining $51 billion on January 15th.