4:30 pm Jan. 2, 2013
After a day of searing criticism from Democrats and Republicans across the northeast, the House Republican leadership announced this afternoon that it would allow a couple of urgent votes on relief aid for states affected by Hurricane Sandy.
House Speaker John Boehner, who has born the brunt of criticism for the decision to adjourn the House without voting on the aid package, met with local Republicans today and agreed to allow an emergency Friday vote on $9 billion to replenish a federal flood insurance program. A second vote will take place on January 15, with the remaining $51 billion at stake.
The $60-billion package had initially been split into one bill for $27 million—an amount some Republicans had identified as the urgent cost of relief efforts—and a second representing $33 billion, which was predicted to be a tougher lift to secure the necessary 218 votes.
The new arrangement would seem to pave the way for the $9 billion measure to pass easily, but raises the stakes for a second vote, which could prove difficult in a Republican conference that voted overwhelmingly against the president's fiscal cliff deal, because it lacked any significant cuts in spending.
At a press conference after the meeting, Rep. Pete King said the first vote would take place under suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds vote of the House, but that the second vote would be introduced as a normal bill, meaning it would need 218 votes.
Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, along with Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, had initially requested more than $80 billion in aid, a figure that was trimmed to $60 billion by the White House.
The acquiesence by Boehner seems to have stemmed some of the vitriol from northeast Republicans. King, a longtime ally of the speaker who denounced him today, said that last night's decision was "a lifetime ago."
"That's in the past," King said, adding, "Clearly the speaker responded. I take him at his word."
Rep. Michael Grimm, who was only slightly less harsh in his condemnation, stayed behind to seal the deal with a handshake.
"I wanted just a moment to actually look in the eyes and shakes hands not just with the speaker but with Eric Cantor," Grimm said. "And both of them shook my hand and gave me their word that this vote will go forward as planned and that they will be there for us."
Grimm and King both said they'll vote for Boehner for speaker tomorrow when the caucus convenes to elect its speaker.
The announcement of the new vote came shortly after a press conference at which Christie accused the speaker of not doing his job, and said repeatedly that he had been given no plausible reason for the canceled vote.