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US House approves Sandy aid package

Lawmakers passed a long-delayed $50.4bn disaster relief package for victims of last year's superstorm Sandy.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2013 02:56
House Republicans managed to cut some spending from the bill through amendments [AFP]

The US House of Representatives has approved a long-delayed $50.4bn disaster relief funding package for victims of superstorm Sandy.

In separate votes, the House approved $17bn in immediate disaster funds targeted largely for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as $33.5bn in funds for longer-term reconstruction projects.

House Republicans, however, managed to cut some specific spending from the bill through amendments.

The legislation had been tied up for weeks in the House amid congressional brawling over US deficit reduction, spending and taxes. After the vote, East Coast politicians abandoned their recently frustrated tone and expressed relief.

"The tradition of Congress of being there and providing support for Americans in times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today's vote in the House of Representatives," New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a Republican, said in a joint statement.

Republicans managed to whittle the package down slightly by eliminating $150m in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant money as well as striking $9.8m for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in a Connecticut wildlife reserve.

The House defeated a Republican attempt to require $17bn in across-the-board spending cuts to pay for part of the aid package.

The vote follows Congress' January 4 passage of $9.7bn in initial funds to keep the National Flood Insurance Program solvent and to pay homeowners' flood claims from Sandy.

House speaker John Boehner infuriated New York and New Jersey politicians on January 1 when he canceled a vote for a previous, Senate-passed $60.4 billion version of the legislation.

The move prompted howls of protest that the largely Democratic East Coast states were being treated much more harshly than the Gulf Coast states that suffered massively from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Just 10 days after that storm, Congress had approved $62bn in federal disaster aid.

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