Two and a half months after Hurricane Sandy decimated the coasts of New York and New Jersey, the House of Representatives finally passed a bill to fund federal relief efforts, but not without some push-back by Republicans and one Democrat. The final $50.7 million aid package passed by a vote of 241 to 180, and is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate easily and face no challenge from President Barack Obama. In the end, 49 Republicans voted across the aisle, joining Democrats in supporting the bill. But Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat of Tennessee, voted the other way. Cooper has made a pet issue out of curbing government spending, according to his website, so it's no surprise he wasn't into it this time either. But it sure must be awkward to be the one member of your party breaking ranks, and on an issue that's already earned Republicans a harsh tongue-lashing from Gov. Chris Christie.
That rebuke from Christie and other Northeast Republicans including Peter King led House Speaker John Boehner to break up the bill into two sections in order to make it more palatable to his own party. First, they voted on a $17 billion bill that directly funds rebuilding efforts, and then on a further $33.6 billion bill that funds longer-term rebuilding and prevention measures. "The approach allowed House conservatives to vote for some of the assistance while lowering the total cost," the New York Times explained. Only 38 Republicans voted for the longer-term spending, The Washington Post reported. So per The Times, "the bulk of the money, contained in the amendment, ultimately needed Democratic votes to be tacked onto the final package and then passed."
The aid package included some spending widely seen as pork, such as a new $2 million roof for the Smithsonian, but it was popular enough in its current state that not only did the House manage to pass it, the bill's supporters beat back conservative efforts to offset the spending by lowering the federal budget. " The move was fended off by the same coalition of Democrats and a smaller number of Republicans who feared it would derail the bill in the Senate," The Post reports. Combined with the $9.7 billion for flood insurance the House approved last week, we're pretty much even with the $60 billion relief bill the Senate approved last month. Nice and efficient.