Rep. Mark Mulvaney, R-S.C., arguing for the reduction, said he wasn't trying to torpedo the aid package, only to pay for it. "Are there no savings, are there no reductions we can put in place this year so these folks can get their money?" he asked plaintively.
Critics said the proposed cuts would crimp Pentagon spending as well as domestic accounts and said the aid should be approved without reductions elsewhere. "There are times when a disaster simply goes beyond our ability to budget. Hurricane Sandy is one of those times," said Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Sandy roared through several states in late October and has been blamed for 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage, much of it in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It led to power outages and interruptions to public transportation that made life miserable for millions, and the clamor for federal relief began almost immediately.
The emerging House measure includes about $16 billion to repair transit systems in New York and New Jersey and a similar amount for housing and other needs in the affected area. An additional $5.4 billion would go to the Federal Emergency and Management Agency for disaster relief, and $2 billion is ticketed for restoration of highways damaged or destroyed in the storm.The governors of the three states most directly affected praised the congressional action. "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 York, New Jersey, and Connecticut at their greatest time of need," said a joint statement issued by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. "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."