In late October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern United States hard. It caused approximately $65 billion in damages, $42 million reportedly in New York alone, the second costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history. There have been 131 deaths in the United States, roughly half of the total of fatalities.
The storm's devastating effects have taken its toll on a lot of Americans, and left many in need of aid. At the end of the year, the Senate passed a $60 billion relief package, which was originally to be voted on by the House at the end of the 112th Congress. Instead, Speaker John Boehner cancelled the vote, much to the disapproval of New York and New Jersey governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, as well as NY Representative Peter King. The stall of the vote was seen as a largely political move by Boehner made in reaction to the more controversial fiscal cliff bill.
A vote took place instead on January 4, and on one portion of the bill, appropriating $9.7 billion to increase FEMA's borrowing authority to fund the National Flood Insurance Program. Speaker Boehner has assured the House that they will take up the remaining $51 billion in the middle of the month. Both Democrats and Republicans voted unanimously in favor of the bill, with the only dissent coming from 67 Republicans.
Included in those 67 were four from South Carolina's seven districts. The 7th District's Tom Rice (R) voted "yea", the 6th's Jim Clyburn did not vote, and the 1st District seat is empty, after Representative Tim Scott was appointed to former Senator Jim Demint's seat.
Backlash against the 67 was swift. Republican Al D'Amato condemned the "nay" voters as "a bunch of jackasses." Representative Paul Ryan of WI said he voted no because of "pork" in the bill. However, there was no pork in the Flood Insurance bill, though the conservative Club for Growth still vowed to punish any House members who voted for the measure, stating concerns about insurance being in the hands of the federal government.
It is worth noting that many of those who voted "nay" have sought federal assistance for their own states in times of need, including two of the four opposing South Carolina congressmen. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, of the 5th District, personally took an SBA loan as part of a disaster relief program. He stated in November of 2011:
We had been through a flood, and I was able to get a disaster relief loan from the SBA, and my experience was actually quite good. It was extraordinarily helpful. (source)
Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Wilson of the 2nd District, best known for his outburst in 2009, has twice sought federal funds for disaster relief. After a particularly harsh drought in 2003, Wilson sought relief funds from the USDA. And after Hurricane Katrina, he voted in favor of a $10.5 billion aid package, adding:
As we now face the severity of this historic natural disaster, Americans must do what we do best: help each other. (source)