WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — The House of Representatives approved a $50.7 billion emergency aid bill Tuesday night for the states hit by Superstorm Sandy.
The final House vote was 241-180 — 192 Democrats were joined by 38 Republicans in approving the measure.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the city can start rebuilding now.
“Rebuilding our hospitals that have been closed; our subways that have been destroyed; helping to rebuild businesses and homes,” she said.
Earlier, Tri-State Area members of the House spent the day trying to win approval for the bill.
Long Island Congressman Peter King called the vote “an outstanding victory for the people of New York, New Jersey and Long Island.
However, King said it was “unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated. But we did fight this bias against the Northeast and thank God our residents won.”
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), whose district includes part of the Jersey Shore, said it was a hard fight.
He said in his 25 years in Congress, “I never remember having to go through all these amendments and all this debate and all this criticism that the money wasn’t going to be properly used. I think it was a bias against New York and New Jersey.”
It was also a vote that the area’s delegation said took longer than it should have.
New York Rep. Eliot Engel had harsh words for Republicans who voted against the package.
“To use this funding as a political pawn in a game over the role of government and budgetary debates is shameful. The first order of business for the federal government is to protect our citizens, and helping them recover from the tragedy of a natural disaster is one of those times,” Engel said.
Added Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey: “Florida? Good luck with no more hurricanes; California? Congrats. Did you get rid of the [San] Andreas fault? Mississippi, you’re in a drought. You think you are gonna flood again?”
CBS 2’s Dick Brennan caught up with some of the victims on Tuesday night. They seemed relieved to hear the news.
“I’m happy that we finally get recognized, because Staten Island needs a lot of help,” Aiman Youssef said.
Youssef would know. His home in Midland Beach is slated to be bulldozed on Thursday and he said he’s received very little aid.
“We felt the impact. We were homeless in 10 seconds. Hopefully we are gonna get something out of this,” Youssef said.
His neighbors, though, were not so sure.
“I don’t trust the bills that they pass cause I’ve seen legislation go through, and it hasn’t been doled out to the people properly,” Richard Lawrence Frisby said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement regarding passage Tuesday of the disaster relief package by the House of Representatives:
“We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut at their greatest time of need. The tradition of Congress being there and providing support for Americans during times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today’s vote in the House of Representatives. We anticipate smooth passage when this package moves back to the Senate for final approval and for this long-awaited relief to finally make its way to our residents.”
“The vote today moves Washington towards honoring the commitment that Americans always make to one another in times of crisis. I applaud all of those who supported this legislation, because the funding is essential to ensuring that New York City rebuilds stronger and safer,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
Earlier, House members from our area won an up vote on the first $17 billion in emergency aid to address the immediate needs of the victims and communities ravaged by Sandy. They used an important economic argument to help round up support for the rest.
“The taxpayers of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey — three states – pay more than 15 percent of the individual and corporate tax revenues collected in the United States of America … 15 percent from three states. If you shut down that engine of production the whole country suffers,” Rep. Rob Andrews (D-Camden, N.J.) said.
From Rep. Andrews to Rep. Maloney, the argument for giving the northeast the whole aid package centered on a basic truism — the Tri-State Area is a major economic engine of the country. And unless the homes and businesses are restored, that engine will grind to a halt.
“The New York metropolitan region produces an estimated 11 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. The country is better off when our nation’s economic engine is working at 100 percent,” Rep. Maloney said.
Some of the resistance to giving New York the full amount sought by Mayor Bloomberg and the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut was the feeling among some that the bill was laden with pork, something Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers, who ran the debate for his party, tried to overcome.
“My committee thoroughly examined the emergency request. We crafted this legislation responsibly, giving the administration’s request and the Senate’s passed bill a hard scrub to eliminate unnecessary spending. We’ve removed objectionable provisions added by the Senate and have adjusted spending levels to make the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Rep. Rogers said.
The Senate is expected to take up the measure next Tuesday.
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