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House, Senate Approve $9.7 Billion for Sandy Flood Victims

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than two months after superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast, Congress on Friday approved $9.7 billion for FEMA flood insurance programs to be distributed to businesses and residents inundated by the storm.

The House of Representatives vote passed 354 to 67, with all opposition coming from Republicans.  The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent. The bill grants the National Flood Insurance Program additional borrowing authority to process 115,000 pending insurance claims.

The Senate passed a $60.4 billion bill which would provide aid for victims of Sandy last year. That bill, which matched the White House’s emergency supplemental request, expired after the House refused to consider the legislation before the 112th session of Congress ended this week.

“We’re disappointed that the package that passed in the Senate in a bipartisan way was not taken up by the majority, the Republican leadership earlier in the previous Congress that just ended,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference just before the vote. “As one who has experienced natural disasters in her district, it’s really important that the confidence that people have in a public response to their personal plight be upheld, that confidence be upheld.”

“The bad news is that we even had to go through this dog and pony show in the first place,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the senate floor.

After the House voted Jan. 1 on the “fiscal cliff” deal, House Speaker John Boehner decided not to vote on any relief during the 112th Congress. Republicans and Democrats from the region revolted until Boehner held a private meeting with angry Republican members where he promised to make Sandy relief a priority in the 113th Congress.

“Why did that have to wait?” Pelosi wondered. “That was a mistake.”

Another vote for additional relief for the region will be taken once the House reconvenes the week of Jan. 14.  The Senate is in recess until Jan. 21.

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