House will vote on Sandy aid Friday

January 2, 2013

The House will vote to provide $9 billion of federal assistance to communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy on Friday, according to Republican lawmakers briefed on plans.

Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told GOP colleagues Wednesday that the House would vote to provide an additional $51 billion on Jan. 15, the first legislative day of business in the next session of Congress.

"Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations," Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The Senate approved a plan last week to provide $60 billion in federal aid to the areas affected by the devastating storm and were hoping the House would act before the 112th Session of Congress ends at noon Thursday. But Boehner and Cantor surprised colleagues late Tuesday by dropping plans to vote on the aid package.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and other Republicans from the New York and from New Jersey slammed Republicans, and Boehner in particular, on the House floor and in a series of media appearances, threatening to tell GOP donors to withhold monetary support in future elections and to withhold votes for Boehner’s reelection as speaker on Thursday.

But after emerging from a meeting with Boehner and Cantor Wednesday afternoon, King said such concerns are now in the past.

“Basically the Speaker said it wasn’t appropriate to bring this up last night or this morning. Obviously we disagreed with that,” King said. At the last minute on Wednesday night, the House voted to pass the Senate's fiscal cliff deal to avert a series of tax hikes on all Americans and spending cuts set to take effect the next day.

“This was a very intense 24, 48 hours. We’re all big boys, we understand that,” King said later.

“This was a case where a very unified New York and New Jersey delegation kept making the substantive case as to why the $60 billion price was absolutely critical,” said Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).

House Republican aides said earlier Wednesday that holding a vote on a federal aid package that included no spending cuts would have been politically untenable after holding a vote on the bipartisan fiscal cliff plan that split the Republican conference.

There was bipartisan outrage over Boehner's decision to nix a Tuesday evening vote on the relief package. King, along with fellow New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, said they were considering abstaining from the vote to reelect Boehner as speaker. Both now say they will support his continued leadership. 

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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