Federal Sandy Aid Package Provokes War Of Words Inside GOP
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A $60 billion federal aid package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy is moving forward, but it hasn't been an easy political process. There's been hot debate about it within the Republican Party. Last night, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives declined to vote on an aid package, and that infuriated lawmakers across New York and New Jersey.
Here's Republican representative Peter King of Long Island this morning on Fox News.
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: These Republicans have no problem finding New York when they're out raising millions of dollars. I'm saying right now, anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans was absolute disgrace.
SIEGEL: But by this afternoon, King and other Republicans were striking a very different tone. King and the others met with speaker of the House John Boehner, and emerged with assurances that the emergency funding bill will go forward this month.
Joining me now is NPR's Joel Rose. And, Joel, when the vote going to happen?
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, Representative King and Michael Grimm of Staten Island, and other lawmakers from New York and New Jersey, emerged from the speaker's office today saying they have assurances that the House will vote on the $60 billion funding package this month. They said that the House will vote, in fact, on Friday on $9 billion and that they'll vote on the remaining amount by January 15th.
We have another clip from Peter King. Here he is sounding much happier after meeting with the speaker, than he did in that first clip. Let's listen.
KING: That's in the past. All I care about is my constituents, the constituents in New York and New Jersey who are absolutely devastated. Clearly, the speaker responded and that's all. I take him at his word. Me and the majority leader both are in full agreement.
SIEGEL: Well, let's go back just a few hours into the past. Why were Peter King and other Republican so furious about the original decision not to vote on this bill last night?
ROSE: Well, these lawmakers say that the emergency funding is needed right now, and that it's important not to delay the passage of the vote - the arrival of this money for even a few weeks or months. You know, people can still apply for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency even without the supplemental funding. But, you know, it's going to be hard for a wider recovery to take place in the region until this money is approved.
That's according to Governor Chris Christie and others who point out that it's now been more than two months since the storm. And local communities and state governments really need the money now so that they can start thinking about, you know, making the decisions and signing the contracts to rebuild roads and schools. And there's just a lot of things they can't do until they know that this federal money is coming.
SIEGEL: Why the delay?
ROSE: That's a really good question. You know, House Speaker John Boehner has not said very much about why this did not come up for vote last night. There has been speculation that it's more conservative members of the House who did not want to follow their other vote on the resolution of the fiscal cliff by then immediately turning around and adding $60 billion to the federal debt.
It's not entirely surprising that Republicans in New York and New Jersey would get very angry with this decision not to vote last night. But maybe that reaction was even louder and faster than the House leadership expected. But, yeah, we just don't know the exact answer to that.
SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Joel.
ROSE: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Joel Rose.
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