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Congress approves $9.7 billion in Sandy flood aid

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Congress approves $9.7 billion in Sandy flood aid
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After facing a firestorm of criticism, the House overwhelmingly approved some aid for states damaged by Hurricane Sandy. YNN's Erin Billups has the details on one of the first votes of the new 113th Congress.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a vote of 354 to 67, the House approved a $9.7 billion bill Friday that temporarily increases the borrowing authority of the National Flood Insurance Program.

"This legislation is vital. This is not a hand out," said Rep. Peter King, (R) Long Island.

The vote comes after House GOP leadership refused to bring the full $60 billion aid package to a vote earlier this week, angering both Republicans and Democrats from states that were devastated by Sandy.

FEMA says without the increased borrowing about 115,000 claims would have been in jeopardy.

"It is just another sign of the majority's dysfunction with FEMA being just a day away from being unable to pay flood claims," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, (D) Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan.

While voting in support of the measure, other Democrats also expressed frustration with the delays.

The remaining $51 billion will be voted on January 15th in two installments. One for about $18 billion, is expected to pass with considerable support, because it will also focus on other immediate needs. The other bill will likely come to the wire. The $33 billion amendment is aimed at longer-term, mitigation projects, and spending remains a major concern for many Republicans.

"A great physical tragedy of today should never become an even greater fiscal tragedy for our children tomorrow," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (R) Texas.

The Senate passed the flood insurance bill Friday afternoon by unanimous consent. Now, some House Republicans are warning the Senate not to try and stuff pork projects into the remaining disaster bills.

New York's Senators say they are in talks with the House about what will go in the remaining bills, which they hope to get through the Senate and signed by the president before the end of the month.

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