By Mark J. Bonamo
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D -- N.J. 6th Dist.) praised Tuesday's passage by the House of $50.7 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief aid and expressed hope that the package will boost the Jersey Shore's efforts to fully recover from the storm.
"This relief package could not come soon enough," Pallone, of Long Branch, said on Tuesday in a written statement. "Today marks 78 days since Superstorm Sandy struck and devastated our homes, businesses and communities. The Senate passed a relief package, but sadly the House Republican leadership chose to prolong the process and thus the rebuilding efforts in affected communities. I am grateful that towns in my district that are strapped for funds will finally receive federal aid that will enable them to recover and rebuild from the historic storm."
The total relief package was passed in a series of two votes on Tuesday. The first vote secured $17 billion for transit and relief aid, while the second vote set aside $33 billion for longer-term projects. The final bill passed by a 241-180 margin. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.
The original $60.4 billion Sandy relief bill was passed by the Democrat-led-Senate at the end of last year. But when that legislative session ended after House Speaker John Boehner's (R --Ohio) last-minute move to pull the aid bill from a vote earlier this month, Congress needed to act to re-approve the disaster aid.
As a result, while the first $9.7 billion piece of the relief package, focused on federal flood insurance assistance, was passed on Jan. 4, the remaining nearly $51 billion in aid came to the House floor for a vote on Tuesday.
Boehner's decision to postpone the vote until a new Congress was sworn in Jan. 3 sparked the wrath of Gov. Chris Christie and most of New Jersey's Congressional delegation, including Pallone and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R -- N.J. 4th Dist.). Both of Monmouth County's Congressmen joined the rest of the New Jersey delegation to fight off an effort by the GOP-controlled House to link the funds to spending cuts, which could have threatened passage of the package.
Pallone hailed the vote in favor of federal aid as an important move towards helping New Jersey residents recover from Hurricane Sandy, whose toll has been estimated at $36.8 billion by Christie.
"House passage of this package means we are one step closer to families returning home and businesses rebuilding so they can once again contribute to our economy," Pallone said. "It also means our communities will receive flood protection so a similar storm won't produce similar destruction. I look forward to swift action in the Senate so we may move towards building a stronger New Jersey."