US House passes post-Sandy disaster relief amid political storm
The US House of Representatives Friday passed a partial disaster relief bill for the New York-New Jersey region hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy last year, three days after garnering withering criticism for failing to act on the measure, DPA reported.
The 9.7 billion dollars will only partly cover the needs of people still living in makeshift quarters or trying to get businesses back up and running.
Many in the region were angered that Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have held up approving the remaining 51 billion dollars that are needed.
The measure was approved in a 354-67 vote, with all the "no votes" coming from Republicans.
"I would think they would find it very difficult to explain their vote in a way that Americans will understand it," Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat, told CNN.
On Wednesday, a top Republican who is said to have presidential ambitions, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, flew into a rage over his fellow Republicans' refusal to pass a complete 60-billion-dollar disaster aid bill that had already cleared the Senate.
"Shame on Congress," he said. "The House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service, and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state."
The aid is critical to people whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which made landfall October 29. They cannot commence major repairs to get back into their homes or make decisions on their futures without the aid.
Christie has noted that his region was waiting six times longer than the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which thrashed the US Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans in 2005, and it was "disgraceful" that disaster relief had become political.
"This is why the American people hate Congress," Christie said.
House Speaker John Boehner has pledged to bring the remaining 51-billion-dollar package before the body on January 15.
Conservative groups like the Club for Growth urged conservatives to vote against the bill because the government should not be in the flood insurance industry.
But Republicans from the north-east, who tend be more moderate than their southern and Midwestern counterparts, have protested of a bias against their region by fellow Republicans.
Republican Peter King of New York earlier in the week said Boehner's refusal to bring disaster relief to the floor reflected a "dismissive attitude" that many in Congress have toward people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.