WASHINGTON — The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed the first installment of Hurricane Sandy supplemental aid legislation, which would increase the National Flood Insurance program’s borrowing authority by $9.7 billion.
The vote, 354-67, comes two days after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., was lambasted by New Jersey and New York congressional members and governors for his initial decision to delay the vote.
Republicans cast the only “no” votes. The influential conservative Club for Growth group urged Republican members to vote “no” on the bill because “Congress should not allow the federal government to be involved in the flood insurance industry in the first place, let alone expand the national flood insurance program’s authority,” it said in a statement.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate where it is expected to be approved Friday afternoon.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the insurance program, warned lawmakers it would run out of funding for Sandy recovery and other natural disasters by early next week if they didn’t act.
The second part of the Sandy package — another $51 billion of assistance — will be voted on in two weeks.
Friday’s House vote comes nearly two months after Hurricane Sandy hit the tri-state area and caused an estimated $50 billion in damages.
Separately, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., delayed a vote to change the rules on the use of the filibuster by extending the first legislative day of the Congress until later this month so that he would have time to negotiate reform with Republicans.
Under the Constitution, the Senate can only vote to change its rules without a 60-vote supermajority on the first legislative day of a new Congress, which began on Thursday. Reid recessed the Senate on Thursday but didn’t adjourn it, so that the first legislative day effectively continues when the Senate comes back on Jan. 14.
“We will reserve the right of all Senators to propose changes to the Senate rules,” Reid said in a statement. “And we will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying over of all the rules from the last Congress. I am confident the Republican leader and I can come to an agreement that allows the Senate to work more efficiently.”
Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will use a bipartisan three-part proposal from Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., as the foundation for their negotiations.
Specifically, their reform proposal would help speed up consideration for judicial nominees and low-level executives, among other things.