Senate sends $9.7B Sandy relief bill to Obama

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this bill is just the start of work that needs to be done to get more federal funds to the affected areas.

“We should not have parades down the street because this bill passed,” Schumer said on the floor Friday. “Work is still ahead of us.”

The Senate passed its own supplemental bill at the very end of the last Congress, which cost $60.4 billion, but because the House did not take up that bill during the 112th Congress, the process started over.

“It’s worse that we have to go through this dog-and-pony show in the first place,” Schumer said before the measure was passed. “The House could have taken it up last month.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised to consider a Sandy-related bill earlier this week, after receiving criticism from members of his own party for not taking up a bill before the 112th Congress closed. The storm hit Northeastern states hard in October.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pointed out that Congress provided aid for Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina within days of it happening, while the Northeast has been waiting more than two months.

“When Katrina happened, we were there in days,” Reid said on the floor Friday. “We are now passed two months for the people in New York. Almost a million people have lost their homes. … I think it’s really unfortunate that we don’t have the relief for New York and New Jersey and other Northeastern states already.”

The bill, H.R. 41, provides a temporary increase in Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) borrowing authority for the NFIP, from $20.725 billion to $30.425 billion. The NFIP was expected to run out of money by next Monday.

Boehner agreed to hold a second vote on Jan. 15 that would spend another $51 billion, making it the same amount as the previous Senate-passed version and what Obama requested. Some Republicans complained that it was too much money to spend without finding offsets, but the states insist they need the funds to rebuild homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Schumer said he is worried that the House won’t pass the additional $51 billion without attaching strings or delays. He pointed out that the additional funds would help rebuild critical infrastructure such as the mass transit subway system in his home state.

“I worry that the second major portion of this bill will not get through the House in the form it should,” Schumer said. “To be a bride left at the altar once is bad enough, but to be left twice would be unconscionable.”

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