The beating that House Speaker John Boehner took earlier this week when he failed to bring a Senate-passed $60 billion emergency aid relief package to east coast states devastated by Hurricane Sandy that made landfall a week before Americans voted for president in early November, was tempered Friday morning when the new House overwhelmingly voted to approve $9.7 billion in flood relief.
Big bipartisan vote for Sandy relief
With a vote of big bi-partisan vote of 354 to 67, the new House, still under the leadership of Ohio Congressman John Boehner who won a narrow vote yesterday to retain the big gavel for another two years, showed that it can respond to a big crisis when big voices like that of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who took Mr. Boehner to the woodshed for saying he would address it before the 112th Congress adjourned but then didn't, can force partisan polemics to dissipate when properly motivated.
The bill represents the first of two steps that Speaker John Boehner said he would take to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to today's vote, Boehner has promised a January 15 vote on a bill that could provide up to $51 billion in additional aid.
The only "no" votes today came from Republicans, but they were not enough to scuttle the two-thirds majority voted needed for passage. Earlier in the day, the Club for Growth said the government should not be involved in the flood insurance industry at all, and warned conservatives to vote against the bill, The Hill reported.
Boehner battles enemies within
Speaker Boehner, a long-standing Congressman who represents a reliably conservative district near Cincinnati, became the center of a storm directed at him, when he promised Gov. Christie that relief was on the way but then failed to deliver on that promise. Gov. Christie, popular among Republicans for his blunt if not colorful tirades against Democrats in particular and the government in general, punished Mr. Boehner earlier this week for not delivering, as he said he would, emergency government aid to his state as well as New York and Connecticut, two states also hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Speaker Boehner has presided over one of the worst performing sessions on record, according to many Washington watchers, and has taken flak from the White House for not accepting so-called "grand bargain" deals offered to him by President Obama, insults from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who accused him of being a dictator for not bringing deals passed by the Senate to the House floor for an up or down vote, and from conservatives in his own conference.
Distrust from Tea Party members of his own majority conference surfaced Thursday, when a small group of uber-conservatives either opposed his reelection or just didn't vote. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who Mr. Boehner recently removed from key committees, voted for Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan. To his chagrin, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, whose name was not formally advanced, was visibly displeased, shaking his head on the House floor when he received three votes, published reports noted.
Boehner and his enemies from within
The anti-Boehner votes, some said, represented a message to Speaker Boehner from a group of conservatives that they don’t him. It's hard to imagine that Mr. Boehner doesn't sense the real tension going forward with Jordan-type conservatives whose focus is on cutting government spending at all costs. A bone of conciliation the speaker tossed to his conference this week, is his new strategy to no longer negotiate behind closed doors with President Obama, as he did on several occasions during the last two years.
Speaker Boehner will have a chance to mend fences at the House Republican retreat set for Jan. 16 in Williamsburg, VA., where he's expected to talk about how the conference will resolve internal differences, while still being able to pass important bills with solely Republican votes, Politico reported.
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