WASHINGTON — Congress passed the first installment of federal relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Sandy Friday, but not before a small group of House Republicans, including Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, vowed to strip the bill of pork-related spending.
The legislation would increase temporarily the debt limit of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the National Flood Insurance Program to $30.4 billion from $20.7 billion.
The additional $9.7 billion is expected to help mainly those residents of New York and New Jersey who took out federal flood insurance and whose homes were damaged after the superstorm hit landfall in late October.
Rep. Scott Garret (R-NJ), the sponsor of H.R. 41, said the bill would help fulfill the federal government’s obligation to homeowners who bought flood insurance.
“As someone who has been on the ground, viewed the devastation, and helped clean up some of the damage, I certainly believe that those who have bought flood insurance should expect to receive the coverage they paid for,” Garrett said in a statement.
The House of Representatives approved Garrett’s bill on a 354-to-67 vote, while the Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent. Eight of the Colorado congressional delegation’s nine members voted yes on the legislation. Lamborn, whose voting record is among the most conservative in Congress, was the lone dissenter in the delegation.
“Congressman Lamborn believes that even worthy disaster relief funding needs to be paid for, given the unsustainable size our trillion dollar annual deficits. He believes it is irresponsible to add more unpaid for projects without making any effort whatsoever to find saving elsewhere to pay for them,” Lamborn spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a prepared statement.
Free market organizations said the bill would prime the pump for unneccessary spending in a later measure.
“It will likely have a lot of pork in it, but we have not seen it yet,” Barney Keller, spokesman for the Club for Growth, said in an interview. The interest group announced it would “score” the vote on H.R. 41, informing lawmakers their vote would be considered part of their rating with the organization.
The Club for Growth’s announcement represented the latest public wrangling over federal relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Late Tuesday night, less than 37 hours before the 113th Congress was sworn in Thursday, House Republican leaders pulled a Senate version of the legislation. The move infuriated lawmakers from New York and New Jersey.
House Republican leaders have said they plan to hold a vote on a $52 billion federal relief effort for the hurricane’s victims on Jan. 15.