WASHINGTON — Under intense pressure from angry Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner agreed Wednesday to a vote this week on aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery.
The speaker will schedule a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the package, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said after emerging from a meeting with Boehner and GOP lawmakers from New York and New Jersey. The votes will be taken by the new Congress that will be sworn in today.
King left the session with Boehner without the anger that led him to rip into the speaker Tuesday night.
It was a very positive meeting, King said, adding that Boehner, R-Ohio, assured the lawmakers present that the money from the two House votes would roughly equal the $60 billion package of aid that passed the Senate.
Since the votes will be taken in the new Congress, the Senate also will have to approve the legislation.
Sandy was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one of the worst storms ever in the Northeast.
Boehner's decision Tuesday night to cancel an expected vote on Sandy aid before Congress ends its current session provoked a firestorm of criticism from New York, New Jersey and adjacent states, including many lawmakers in his own party.
According to King, Boehner explained that after the vote on the fiscal cliff, Boehner didn't think it was the right time to schedule the vote before the current Congress went out of business.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said he was frustrated after Boehner withdrew the bill Tuesday night and tried to call him four times that night, but none of the calls were returned. Christie complained about the toxic internal politics of the House majority. Christie said he had worked hard to persuade House members to support Sandy aid, and was given assurances by GOP leaders that the bill would be voted on before Thursday.
There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me, Christie said before Boehner announced there would be votes this month.
King had branded Boehner's initial decision to pull the bill a cruel knife in the back to New York and New Jersey.
King was among an angry chorus of New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both parties who blasted Boehner, with some saying his move was a betrayal.