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Reasons the House delayed approval of Sandy disaster relief

The House passed, 354 to 67, a $9.7 billion bill to top off the National Flood Insurance Program and help victims of superstorm Sandy. The timing has been delicate for the GOP-controlled House.

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A torn US flag flutters near a house destroyed by Superstorm Sandy at Staten Island in New York Friday, the same day that Congress approved $9.7 billion in initial relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. But New York and New Jersey lawmakers seethed over delays in passing the rest of a $60.4 billion federal aid package.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

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Two months after superstorm Sandy swept across the Northeast, the House on Friday passed a $9.7 billion bill to top off the National Flood Insurance Program, which could have run out of funds to pay claims as early as next week.

Big federal programs are often controversial in the GOP-controlled House. But the timing of the Sandy relief package, coming just after a tough vote for Republicans on a measure to avert the “fiscal cliff,” made this vote nearly toxic.

In the end, the measure passed, 354 to 67.

Afterward, the Senate approved the measure by voice vote, and it now goes to the White House for signature.

Senators had approved an identical measure last month as part of a more comprehensive $60.4 billion aid package, but that measure died when the House failed to pass it by noon Thursday, when the 112th Congress ended.

House Speaker John Boehner has promised to schedule votes on the more comprehensive package by Jan. 15.

Mr. Boehner’s decision to not vote on the measure in the final hours of the last Congress had set off a firestorm among the New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut delegations, who on Wednesday described the speaker’s plan as a “betrayal.”

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