World Bulletin/News Desk
The U.S. Congress on Friday approved $9.7 billion in initial relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy, but New York and New Jersey lawmakers seethed over delays in sending the rest of a $60.4 billion federal aid package.
The House of Representatives voted 354-67 to keep the National Flood Insurance Program solvent and able to pay claims of thousands of homeowners who suffered flood damage in coastal New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from the October storm.
The Senate then quickly passed the measure by voice vote, and it now moves to President Barack Obama to be signed into law on his vacation in Hawaii.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner drew scathing criticism earlier this week - including blasts from Northeast Republicans - when he canceled a House vote on the full $60.4 billion aid package passed by the Senate.
The frustration continued on Friday as lawmakers from both parties complained the flood insurance infusion would do little to help the bulk of those suffering more than two months after the devastating Oct. 29 storm.
"It took only 10 days after Katrina for President (George W.) Bush to sign $60 billion in Katrina aid," said New Jersey Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell, referring to the 2005 hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast. "How dare you come to this floor and make people think everything is OK."
Boehner, re-elected on Thursday for another term as House speaker, canceled the earlier vote on the full Sandy aid package amid Republican discontent over passage on Tuesday of the "fiscal cliff" deal. That legislation prevented tax hikes on most Americans but did not achieve the significant spending cuts House Republicans wanted.
A Boehner aide said that Tuesday night was "not a good time" to hold a vote on another massive spending bill.
But after coming under fire from Republicans including Representative Peter King of New York and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a potential presidential contender for 2016, Boehner scheduled Friday's vote on the piece of the package.
He also promised a second vote on Jan. 15 for the remaining portion of nearly $51 billion in aid. The House is not in session next week.
"This is a crisis of unimaginable proportions," King said. "If you saw the suffering that's going on, if you saw the people who don't have food and shelter, you'd realize how horrible this is."
The federal flood insurance program will run out of money next week to pay claims without the $9.7 billion increase in borrowing capacity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Thursday.
Putting more money into the program would come months after President Barack Obama signed a law aimed at improving its finances. Congress bailed out the program after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and it is nearly $20 billion in debt.
The 67 votes against the bill stemmed largely from Republican discontent with the lack of reforms to keep the flood insurance program solvent.
Among these were Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, who said in a statement it "would be irresponsible to raise an insolvent program's debt ceiling without making the necessary reforms."
Standard homeowners' insurance does not cover flooding. The government set up its flood insurance program in 1968 to provide affordable insurance, impose flood management policies on vulnerable communities and reduce federal disaster aid costs.
Critics of the program complain it is inefficient and say it subsidizes people who live and build in dangerous and environmentally sensitive flood zones.
When the House returns to consider the remaining portion of the aid package on Jan. 15, Republicans bent on cutting spending will have a chance to vote for a smaller amount. The package will be considered in two parts - about $17 billion for immediate needs and another $33 billion for longer term projects.
Republican aides said the House bill also will delete some items that party members say are unrelated to storm damage in the Northeast, such as funds for fishery replenishment in Alaska and the Gulf Coast.
"We need to get the pork out," said Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, who called for negotiations with the Senate to resolve differences in the two aid packages before the Jan. 15 vote.
Some Arab media had recently claimed that the bank had already been controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and some of Libya's militant movements
The first H5N8 case in Germany was confirmed on Nov. 4 on a poultry farm in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Some 5,000 birds were infected by the disease, of which 1,880 died.
Filling Tirana's main street, they carried banners protesting against lack of jobs, tax rises and what would amount to a rise of electricity prices next year.
High-speed trains were halted, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage from the quake
Benhabyles said the migrants would be airlifted to the southern province of Tamanrasset before they are asked to cross the border back into Niger
Authorities in Tanzania have ordered the eviction of 40,000 Masai people so their ancestral home can be turned into a hunting ground for Dubai royals.
No new idea or remarkable proposal has come from the world powers’ group, the P5+1, yet during talks over Iran’s nuclear issue, says Iranian minister
Search for missing 4-month-old continues along river in North Sumatra province after parents lose lives
This is the first meeting is to be held between al-Subaihi and Corman since the appointment of the former as defense minister in the current Yemeni government.
Peshmerga spokesman Brigadier General Halgurd Hikmat confirmed that Turkish soldiers had started special forces training with peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq
Barhoum described the accusations leveled against the Qassam Brigades as "false", which – according to him – aim at defaming Hamas and its military wing.
Demonstrators also demanded the expulsion of armed militias from Sanaa, in reference to Shiite Houthi militants who have seized control of the capital in September.
The majority of the deaths, 785, were ISIL fighters according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The bodies of the men from the Albu Fahd tribe were discovered after the army launched a counter-offensive against the ISIL in a village on the eastern edge of Ramadi
His comments stepped up Moscow's war of words with the United States and the European Union in their worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War ended.
Though murdered revolutionary folk hero Sankara's body was placed in an unmarked grave, it is believed to be buried in a cemetery in the capital Ouagadougou's Dagnoen neighbourhood.