A revolt against their Speaker
There are two reasons why House Republicans are playing petulant games with the Sandy aid bill. One is the public reason: FEMA still has enough emergency reserves through February, and there's plenty of time to pass a bill extending FEMA funding during the new session of Congress, which begins tomorrow. Ok.
The private reason, and the real reason, is that House Republicans were irate about the spending provisions in "fiscal cliff" band-aid that was forced down their throat last night by Speaker John Boehner and probably indicated to him, at a late hour, that another spending bill was just not going to wash. Boehner depleted every ounce of credibility he had with his conference, which is decidedly more conservative and less responsive to political incentives for compromise than Senators, by his plea for national unity. The Sandy bill was not very popular with House Republicans for a variety of reasons, including the money there for NASA, head start programs outside the affected areas, and museum roofs. The Club for Growth opposes the bill because of the pork, scoring it a "key vote."
There is an urgency here: the faster the money for all sorts of aid agencies is appropriated, the more quickly businesses and families can plan their 2013 budgets. And Congress basically resets tomorrow, meaning that the Senate will have to take the time to pass the same bill again, and might decide to start tinkering with it which would further extend the calendar.
House Republicans feel powerless. The Sandy bill is a casualty of timing.
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