Boehner committed to move Hurricane Sandy relief bill in January

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), under fire from Northeast lawmakers in his own party, is promising to pass an emergency spending bill to help pay for damage from Hurricane Sandy in the next Congress, which starts Thursday.

“The Speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Wednesday.

{mosads}Boehner scrapped plans to bring a $27 billion Sandy relief package, without spending-cut offsets, to the floor late Tuesday night. The move means that the Senate’s $60.4 billion Sandy bill will die, and the notoriously slow body will have to start from scratch on a new bill. 

Lawmakers from New York and New Jersey reacted with fury to the decision. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the Speaker had shown a “dismissive attitude” to Sandy’s victims. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.N.Y.) called it a “disgrace.”

Boehner will meet with Republican Members of the New York and New Jersey delegations Wednesday afternoon to discuss his decision. 

The plan had been to allow a vote on the bill and on an amendment increasing the aid by another $33 billion. The sudden change of plans came after most members of the GOP voted against the “fiscal cliff” bill that turned off most of the $500 billion in tax increases and delayed spending cuts coming into effect in 2013.

House appropriators had released a pared-down Sandy bill earlier in the day and played no role in scuttling its consideration.

GOP sources said that after Republican members expressed frustration about how the fiscal-cliff bill had little or no spending cuts, leaders weren’t going to ask rank-and-file members to approve $60 billion in new spending.

These sources also say that they expect that the House will take up and resolve the issue “promptly” this month. In the meantime, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has said its disaster-relief fund still has a positive balance until March, Republicans point out.

Northeast lawmakers led by Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) had been furiously whipping support for the full $60.4 billion and were increasingly confident that with near-unanimous Democratic support the bill would pass, albeit with more limited Republican support. They are worried that if the Sandy effort drags out it will be overwhelmed in a budget-cutting frenzy sure to take hold when the nation fully reaches its $16.4 billion debt ceiling by March.

Boehner is up for reelection as Speaker on Thursday, and while his authority remains intact after the fiscal-cliff crisis, it is strained. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) all voted against the fiscal-cliff deal over its lack of spending cuts. Rising star Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) voted with the Speaker in favor of the bill.

— This story was updated at 11:27 a.m.

Tags Boehner Eric Cantor John Boehner Paul Ryan
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