WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a bill to provide $9.7 billion in temporary funding for the national flood insurance program, which is running out of money after paying claims in New York and other areas damaged by superstorm Sandy.
With a 354-67 vote, the House approved and sent the measure for consideration in the Senate, where Democrats say they hope to pass it with a voice vote Friday afternoon.
All the members of the New York and New Jersey delegations voted for the bill. Among those voting no was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who ran for vice president on the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney in the last election.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. — whose revolt with other Northeast officials against House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for putting off the vote on New Year’s Day led to Friday’s action — urged colleagues during debate to approve the measure.
“It’s up to us to put past recriminations behind us,” he said. “Let’s go forward standing as one.”
King added, “This bill is necessary because people are suffering. This bill is vital. This is not a handout.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and a few Republicans raised doubts about the National Flood Insurance Program, which is already $20 billion in debt.
But Rep. Greg Meeks, D-N.Y., likened the flood insurance program to a promissory note that the federal government must pay — since homeowners must pay flood insurance premiums by law, their claims should be paid without delay.
So far that has been the case; the borrowing authority will ensure there will be no delays if Congress approves it.
(Yancey Roy contributed to this report.)
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