House to vote on superstorm Sandy aid

The Jet Star Roller Coaster is seen in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 29, 2012, after plunging into the ocean when Superstorm Sandy wrecked the amusement pier on which it sat. AP Photo

The House of Representatives today will vote on legislation to provide an additional $51 billion in aid to the region affected by Superstorm Sandy, the final piece of Sandy aid Congress will vote on after weeks of contention over the issue.

The House will vote on two aid packages, including a bill that provides $17 billion in emergency funding to address immediate needs for victims and communities affected by Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in October 2012. This legislation includes $5.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, to provide people with temporary housing and crisis counseling, among other things. The bill also includes $5.4 billion for transit emergency relief, as well as $3.9 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Department that will go towards efforts like repairing hospitals and utilities.

The House will also vote on an amendment to provide an additional $33.6 billion in spending for recovery efforts and for anticipated needs. The bulk of the money, $19.7 billion, will go towards transportation, housing and urban development -- repairing transportation infrastructure and to help state and local governments meet the needs for public infrastructure like hospitals.

Congress earlier this month passed a bill allocating $9.7 billion to FEMA for Sandy relief. Today's bills, should they pass, will give the affected states the additional $51 billion in Sandy aid requested by President Obama.

The White House on Monday issued a statement of administration policy, urging Congress to approve the aid, without worrying about offsetting the costs.

"Providing Federal funding for response, recovery, and mitigation following Hurricane Sandy will maintain the Nation's tradition of pulling together to help one another in times of greatest need," the statement said.

House Speaker John Boehner made the Sandy aid a priority for the new Congress, after the House failed to take up the issue in the final hours of the 112th congressional session, setting off a firestorm of criticism from northeastern lawmakers. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., lashed out at Boehner for failing to provide the money quickly, while several House Republicans threatened to vote against Boehner's bid to be re-elected speaker of the House.

In his annual state-of-the-state address this month, Christie said 364,000 New Jersey homes were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, and 116,000 people were evacuated or displaced from their homes. He also said Sandy caused the economy to "stall" and that the Garden State lost 8,000 jobs.

In spite of the insistence from lawmakers like Christie that the money is desperately needed, some conservatives have continued to oppose doling out such "emergency" funds -- especially money for "anticipated" needs that don't go to immediate relief efforts.

"Disasters may be unpredictable, but we know with 100 percent certainty that they will occur," Andy Roth, the conservative Club for Growth's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. "Therefore, Congress shouldn't keep passing massive 'emergency' relief bills that aren't paid for, have little oversight, and are stuffed with pork. Also, Congress shouldn't use disasters like Hurricane Sandy as an excuse to spend billions on long-term projects that should be considered during the regular appropriations process."

CBS News' Jill Jackson contributed to this report.

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