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House Delays Vote On Full Sandy Aid Until January 15

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TWC News: House Delays Vote On Full Sandy Aid Until January 15
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Following a day of heavy criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers over a decision not to bring the Sandy relief bill to the House of Representatives, House Speaker John Boehner says Congress is not voting on all $60 billion of proposed aid until January 15.

President Barack Obama and other prominent lawmakers urged Republican House leaders to bring the $60 billion relief package to a vote Wednesday, but the chamber adjourned without taking action.

Instead, Boehner is planning an initial vote on $9 billion for flood insurance on Friday, and then the remaining $51 billion will be up for a vote 11 days later.

It is unclear how those measures would be reconciled with the Senate bill passed on Friday that would have provided $60 billion to states recovering from Sandy, including New York and New Jersey.

That measure will have to be passed again in the new Senate, which will be sworn in tomorrow.

Rep. Peter King of Long Island welcomed the news that Congress would finally vote on the legislation.

"The bottom line is that between Friday morning and January 15, our two votes will bring in $60 billion as absolutely necessary for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. So as far as I'm concerned -- I think I can speak for all the members of the New York-New Jersey delegations, I think it was an extremely positive meeting," said King.

However, earlier Wednesday, state and federal lawmakers expressed disappointment with the House's postponing the vote.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie echoed Obama, saying in part, "The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty."

"This continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable," they say in the statement. "This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented."

Senator Charles Schumer said in a statement that if aid is not approved before the current Congressional session ends at noon Thursday, it could delay help for months.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also joined the chorus of disapproval, saying, "I am disappointed that the Hurricane Sandy bill was not brought up. I thought there were sufficient votes to pass it, but it is up to the Speaker, John Boehner, to decide what bills get brought up when. I talked to him this morning and he assured me this would be considered during the month of January."

Several city representatives also voiced criticism.

"How can we treat an entire region of the country this way?" said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. "It is the most disgraceful action I've seen in this House."

"I took this job to make people's lives a little better, to make life in the United States a little better, and I'm not able to do that today," said Rep. Michael Grimm. "And I don't understand why."

"We are now in the ninth week," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "And Congress acted swiftly when Hurricane Katrina hit. Within two weeks, we allocated over $60 billion. When Hurricane Ike and Gustav struck, it was within two weeks, we had allocated all the money that was needed. With the tornado in Alabama. We allocated it everywhere. Yet the second-worst storm in the history of our country, which has struck the most populated area in our country, they are dragging their feet. It is unfair."

Many New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 said they were relying on money to help rebuild, especially in the hardest hit areas.

"We need help. Staten Island, especially, and many other areas in New York. We should contact our congressmen and force them to vote," said one New Yorker.

"It's unacceptable. All people need help and you know, what are you going to do? This is America, man," said another New Yorker.

"We need that money. Are you kidding me? This is a disaster. We have to rebuild," added a third New Yorker.

While the Senate passed its initial $60 billion relief package, the House appropriations committee drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure.

So far, more than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent on relief efforts for 11 states and the District of Columbia.

FEMA still has about $4.3 billion, which officials say would only be enough to cover the recovery through early spring.

That remaining money can only be used for emergency services.

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