WASHINGTON — After coming under intense pressure from political leaders in states across the Northeast, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a long-awaited $50.5 billion emergency bill to provide help to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The aid package passed 241-180, with 49 Republicans joining 192 Democrats to approve it, and it now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. President Barack Obama has expressed support for the measure.
The $50.5 billion — along with a nearly $10 billion aid package that Congress approved about a week ago — seeks to pay for a variety of needs that have arisen since the hurricane struck more than two months ago in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other Northeast states.
The money would help homeowners and small-business owners rebuild, reinforce shorelines, repair subway and commuter rail systems, fix bridges and tunnels, and reimburse local governments for policing, firefighting and other emergency expenditures.
Though the package does not cover the full $82 billion in damage identified by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, leaders from the storm-ravaged region expressed relief over the action in the Republican-controlled House, where storm aid had become ensnared in the larger debate over spending and deficits.
Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who helped press his party's leadership into holding the vote, hailed the package's passage as a victory for storm victims but expressed disappointment over the House's failure to act earlier.
"It is unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated," he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is part of the chamber's leadership, said he would urge the Senate to approve the House bill even though he believed it fell short of what the Senate approved last year. "It is certainly close enough," he said, comparing the bills.