House passes Sandy relief bill

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The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $50.7 billion emergency bill Tuesday to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy 78 days after the storm slammed into the Northeast.

The aid package passed 241-180, with 49 Republicans joining 192 Democrats. The Senate is expected to pass the measure and President Obama has expressed support for it, according to the New York Times.

The Republican-led House began debate on its Hurricane Sandy relief bill without voting on amendments that would have inserted between $116 million and $150 million in fishing industry funding, according to the Associated Press. Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney called the decision “callous and outrageous.”

Northeast fishermen became eligible for federal aid last year after a fishery disaster was declared in the region because of the slow recovery of fish stocks. The Senate version of the bill, passed in the last Congress, included $150 million for fishermen in the Northeast, the Gulf Coast and Alaska. The House bill didn’t include significant money.

The Senate still has a say after the House bill passes, but the prospects for fishing funds are uncertain.

The $50.7 billion — along with a nearly $10 billion aid package that Congress approved earlier this month — seeks to provide for the huge needs that have arisen in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states since the hybrid storm, which was no longer categorized as a hurricane, struck in late October.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who is part of the chamber’s leadership, told the Times he will urge the Senate to approve the House bill even though he believed it fell short of what the Senate approved last year.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who helped press his party’s leadership into holding the vote, praised the package’s passage as a victory for storm victims, but expressed disappointment over the House’s failure to act earlier.

“It is unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated,” King told the Times.

Click here for the New York Times report.

Click here for the AP report.

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