More than two months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, the House passed a measure approving tens of billions in aid to help in immediate and long term recovery. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
In a vote of 241-180, the House approved the $50.5 billion Sandy Disaster Aid package Tuesday evening.
The package was split into two main bills. The first, a $17 billion measure, passed overwhelmingly.
"I always knew that in my heart that we would come together to help our constituents," Queens Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) said.
It addresses the immediate needs by adding $5.4 billion to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, $5.4 billion for New York and New Jersey's transit systems, nearly $4 billion for Housing programs and another $1.4 billion for the Army Corp of Engineers.
The second piece provides $33.7 billion dollars for longer term recovery and mitigation projects.
The House voted on more than a dozen amendments to the aid bill. They called for offsets to pay for the package, cutting it down or demanding pork projects be removed.
"Everything is there, every earmark is out, every dollar is accounted for," Long Island Rep. Peter King (R) said. "I walked through my neighborhood, I see the people who lost their homes. I know how tragic it is, all of us know it. This is not make believe."
Even when it was clear the Sandy Aid bill would finally make it to the House floor, Democrats still expressed frustration with all of the delays.
"It is a travesty that it has taken this long for the House of Representatives to allow a vote on disaster response funding," Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) said.
"Our response has been characterized by delay, obstruction, postponement, obfuscation," Queens and Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D) said.
To that, some Republicans did not apologize.
“For those who would say we’ve taken our time, I’d like to say I think we’re trying to do it right," Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said.
The Senate is expected to take up the House-passed bill next week after the inauguration.
"The House bill isn't as good as the Senate bill but it's close enough," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "I'll be urging my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass the House bill without further amendment."
Schumer said he hopes to have the bill on the president's desk by the end of next week.