By Andrew Miga
The Associated Press
The new Congress on Friday rushed out $9.7 billion to help pay flood insurance claims to 115,000 people and businesses afflicted by Sandy, two days after New Jersey's governor and other Northeast Republicans upbraided House Speaker John Boehner for killing a broader package for state and local governments in the storm's path.
The bill will replenish the National Flood Insurance Program, which was due to run out of money next week with the pending Sandy- related claims, as well as 5,000 unresolved claims from other floods.
"It's a small down payment on the larger aid we need," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The legislation cleared the Senate by a voice vote following passage by the House, 354-67.
The government already has spent about $2 billion on the emergency response to the late October storm. It slammed the Atlantic coastline from North Carolina to Maine, with the worst damage occurring in New York City and its suburbs, New Jersey and Connecticut. The storm is blamed for 140 deaths.
Boehner has promised a vote Jan. 15 on a broader, $51 billion package of aid, which would bring the total to the more than $60 billion requested by President Barack Obama. Senate leaders have promised a vote the following week
The White House praised Friday's vote because of its help for home-owners, renters and businesses and urged Congress to act quickly on the remainder of Obama's request.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a joint statement imploring Congress to move hastily on the rest of the money. "We are trusting Congress to act accordingly on January 15th," it said.
The $2 billion that FEMA has spent went to providing shelter, restoring power and meeting other immediate needs.
Eleven states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts - plus the District of Columbia have shared that money.
Boehner pledges to battle Obama on spending cuts
WASHINGTON | In the first closed-door meeting of the Republican majority in the new Congress, newly re-elected House Speaker John Boehner on Friday promised a fight with President Barack Obama to cut spending in exchange for raising the nation's debt limit. The Ohio Republican insists there must be at least a dollar-per-dollar match between spending reductions and continued borrowing.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress this week that the nation has hit its $16 trillion debt limit, and Congress will be asked soon to raise the borrowing authority to continue paying the nation's bills.
- Tribune Washington Bureau