The House has agreed to a bill that includes $17 billion intended to cover immediate relief needs for victims of Hurricane Sandy, including $5.4 billion for the FEMA fund that funnels aid directly to individuals and local communities to rebuild. The measure passed on a 327 to 91 vote. Later, the House will take action on an amendment that would provide $33.6 billion in additional money to cover a longer-term effort to rebuild devastated communities in New York and New Jersey.
The House defeated a key amendment proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and backed by the conservative organization Club for Growth would offset the $17 billion underlying measure by cutting 1.63 percent from every federal agency, including the military.
It fell on a 162 to 258 vote after House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) appealed to colleagues that the across the board offsetting cut would cause indiscriminate damage to federal programs. He noted the cut would total more than the size of the entire Agriculture department.
“At times, the spending of federal dollars is indeed necessary,” he said, adding, “Natural disasters hit unexpectedly, and sometimes require a response that we cannot foresee.”
But 157 Republicans -- including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and a majority of the GOP caucus -- supported the amendment, even as it fell to opposition from other Republicans and Democrats.