After the House passed the bill that averted the fiscal cliff but didn’t cut the budget, House Speaker John Boehner reversed course on his earlier decision to avoid a vote in the House approving $60 billion for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Boehner had planned to adjourn the House before a vote could be taken, most probably because he was taking heat for his acceptance of the budget deal and didn’t want to look even worse by approving even more money being spent.
But the firestorm that erupted when Boehner announced he was canceling the vote was fierce. Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wanted the bill for relief passed. His best friend Chris Christie, whose embrace of Obama during the Sandy crisis infuriated conservatives, used his typical populist attitude to attack conservatives who were skeptical of throwing $60 billion at a problem without considering where all the money was going. He bloviated that the cancellation plans were because of the “toxic internal politics” of the House and continued: “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent (storm) victims – the House majority and the speaker, John Boehner.”
Long Island Congressman Peter King bluntly stated, “This procedure that was laid out is fully acceptable and fully satisfactory. It provides the full $60 billion that we require” after claiming Boehner’s earlier attempt at adjourning before the vote was a “knife in the back.”
Now that Boehner has changed his mind, a vote will be taken Friday on the first $9 billion in aid, and a second vote will be taken January 15 on the $51 billion that is targeted for the victims. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives will now vote on Friday on a $9 billion down payment for storm-related aid to the National Flood Insurance program.
But after Boehner changed his mind, he and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor released a statement that said: “Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations.”
There are dissenters: many GOP members noted that some of the money in the package would be spent on problems unrelated to Sandy, notably $150 million to rebuild fisheries, some of which are located in the Gulf Coast and Alaska, and $2 million to repair roof damage Smithsonian Institution buildings in Washington that was there before the storm occurred.
If Boehner had stood tall on the fiscal cliff, he might have had a chance to demand an accounting of where the money was being spent. But that’s not what happened.