After several weeks of wrangling, the House on Tuesday evening approved a $50.4 billion package of aid for Hurricane Sandy, as a coalition of almost all Democrats and a small group of Republicans pushed the bill over the finish line, sending it on to the Senate.
"We have an amergency here," said Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), one of many Democrats who complained that Republicans had dragged their feet on aid for New Jersey and New York, a much different response than one undertaken for Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Only 49 Republicans voted for the Sandy relief bill, along with 192 Democrats, while 179 GOP lawmakers voted "No." The only Democrat in the "No" column was Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), one of the few surviving Blue Dog Democrats in Congress.
While many Republicans wanted a smaller disaster relief bill, some of them refused to embrace a plan to pay for one third of the plan, by using an across the board budget cut of 1.63% to trim $17 billion.
"Are we willing and able to do without anything?" asked a frustrated Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who saw 71 of his fellow Republicans vote against the offsetting budget cuts.
The move reinforced arguments by Democrats that the GOP loves to talk about cutting the budget and saving money, but doesn't follow through.
Still, Mulvaney and others tried to emphasize the positive, as they had 162 votes for their plan.
"I hope that we will use this experience to be even better stewards of taxpayer dollars going forward," said Mulvaney after the vote.
The House did vote to strip out two small provisions from the bill, cutting out $150 million for "Regional Ocean Partnership Grants" and $9.8 million to rebuild seawalls and some buildings on uninhabited islands in a Connecituct wildlife refuge.
But the House rejected other plans for savings, like cutting $13 million for the National Weather Service "ground readiness project," which is an internal effort to increase the technology infrastructure of the Weather Service, allowing them to more rapidly process weather data.
"The aid provided in this package comes not a moment too soon and it will enable communities to continue their recovery efforts," said Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY).
The plan now goes to the U.S. Senate, where a final vote could happen as early as next week; the Senate is out until Inauguration Day on Monday.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes on Thursday said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks will mount a vigorous challenge of a 30-count federal indictment that accuses him of stealing nearly $1 million over 20 years from a pair of charities.