The U.S. House of Representatives approved $50.4 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy Monday night, with every member of the Connecticut delegation voting in the 241-180 majority. The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which provides $17 billion in immediate relief and $33 billion in long-term recovery assistance, follows $9.7 billion in National Flood Insurance funding the House passed earlier this month.
Together, these two measures nearly total the $60.4 in Sandy aid the Senate passed in one package during the 112th Congress. But House Speaker John Boehner never brought that bill to a vote, so lawmakers had to start over when the new Congress was sworn in. Gov. Malloy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who previously criticized Boehner’s decision, issued a joint statement Monday saying they were grateful for the “long-awaited relief.”
Connecticut’s congressional delegation praised the passage Monday night, but not without caveats.
Sens. Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal put it bluntly:
“It is regrettable that it took a new session for Republican leaders in the House to put their petty partisan politics aside and provide this much-needed aid to those still struggling to return to normal after the devastating damage wrought by Sandy.”
Rep. John Larson took on “recalcitrant Republicans in the House”:
“The Republican controlled Congress has reached a new low when it places politics and ideology before American citizens in need of their nation’s assistance. Holding the nation hostage, such as threatening to plunge the nation over the fiscal cliff yet again, continues to be the modus operandi of the Republican Leadership.”
Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney criticized an amendment by Louisiana Rep. John Fleming that cut funding initially included in the bill to help restore the McKinney Wildlife Refuge, a federal facility in Westbrook.
DeLauro called the amendment “vindictive”:
“Federal disaster relief is meant to restore homes, businesses, communities and federal facilities to their pre-disaster conditions. We do this whether the disaster is a fire in the west, a tornado in the south, or a hurricane in the northeast.”
Courtney had this to say about it:
“Given the fact that the proponent of the amendment comes from a state that received $71 million in wildlife restoration funds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this amendment is a bitter pill for a state like Connecticut—a donor state to the federal government.”
Rep. Jim Himes tweeted this after the vote:
“#Sandy relief bill passes! File away the ~170 NO votes for reference when their constituents are devastated by flood, quake, wind or fire.”
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who would not have voted on Sandy relief had it been taken care of in the last session, called the aid “inexcusably late”:
For 79 days, Connecticut families have been waiting for the aid they need to rebuild their homes and their lives…When people are hit by catastrophe, we have an obligation to help, and we have an obligation to get it done quickly.