Updated at 9:45 pm EST
The House, finally, has approved billions in aid for the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
The first aid package of $17 billion passed today on a vote of 327-91.
All 91 of the opponents were Republicans, including six committee chairmen including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee and Republican Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign.
A bipartisan coalition did approve the bill: 192 Democrats were joined by 135 Republicans.
In a statement, Ryan said he voted against the Sandy aid measure because “it funds billions in grants for non-Sandy expense” including highway repairs in the Virgin islands. “We must ensure communities in need have sufficient resources to assist those affected by Hurricane Sandy,” he said. “We can provide aid without mismanaging our resources and without increasing our massive debt.”
A second larger measure passed by 241-180.
Combined with flood aid approved earlier, the package totals $60.4 billion
Yet the opposition is probably new grist for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s complaints about his own party’s delay in coming to the rescue of the hurricane-stricken residents of his state after the “super-storm” that struck the Northeast on Oct. 29. Republicans in his region had protested when House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio canceled a planned Jan. 1 vote on the package in the Republican-run House.
“There is a federal responsibility to act,” said Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole. “We have a national interest in getting this region on its feet as quickly as possible.”
After the storm in October, Christie toured the devastation with President Barack Obama — a bipartisan show of concern that aided the images of both men. After the election in November, Christie congratulated the Democratic president who won a second term. He sent an e-mail to Romney.
No word yet on Christie’s message today to Ryan.
Jim Rowley contributed to this report.