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Jan. 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM
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House OKs $51B Sandy aid bill

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Tuesday approved $51 billion in aid for states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, though opponents insisted it's a spending "grab bag."

C-SPAN reported the Disaster Relief and Appropriations Act passed 241-180, with 179 Republicans and one Democrat casting "no" votes.

The House action sends the bill to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which had previously passed its own version and is expected to give its stamp of approval to the House version Jan. 22.

Earlier, the House voted 367-52 in favor of a rule for further debate on the measure, clearing the way for the final vote, The Hill reported.

Although most Republicans and Democrats urged support for the bill, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., argued against it, saying billions of dollars would be spent on longer-term storm mitigation matters, rather than on immediate relief from the storm that struck the region in October, The Hill reported.

"According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than 90 percent of this money won't even be spent this year," McClintock said. "That's not emergency relief."

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut had been very specific in describing their states' needs.

"It's no grab bag," Pascrell said of the bill. "That's an insult to the Northeastern states that were hit by this tremendous storm."

Carney says assault weapons ban possible

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday he doesn't think an assault weapons ban is dead even before arrival in Congress.

During his daily press briefing, Carney was reminded by a reporter that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has expressed doubts whether a ban can make it through the Republican-controlled House and that the Senate won't pass legislation the House won't approve.

"The president has made clear that he supports and has long supported a renewal of the assault weapons ban," Carney said. "We will look to Congress to put together a legislative strategy. We'll work with them. And we will push for things that are hard because they're the right things to do. We're not going to prejudge ... "

Asked specifically if he thinks the assault weapons ban is doomed, Carney said: "I don't believe that. And I think that that doesn't mean it's a sure thing, either. If these things were easy, they would have been achieved already. If renewal of the assault weapons ban were easily accomplished, it would not need renewing because it would have happened already."

Carney went on to say President Obama is committed to pushing the package of proposals he is to unveil Wednesday.

"He is not naive about the challenges that exist, but he believes that, as he said yesterday, if even one child's life can be saved by the actions we take here in Washington, we must take those actions," he said.

Carney indicated Obama would not veto a package that doesn't include the assault weapons ban.

White House condemns Morsi comments

CAIRO, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The White House Tuesday condemned Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for his caustic remarks about Jews nearly three years ago as a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

In a 2010 speech that surfaced on video, Morsi urged Egyptians to "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred" for Jews and Zionists. In a television interview about the same time, he described Zionists as "bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians ... ."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his daily briefing the Obama administration views Morsi's remarks as "deeply offensive."

"We completely reject the statements, as we do any language that espouses religious hatred," Carney said. "This discourse -- and this is a broader point -- this kind of discourse has been acceptable in the region for far too long and is counter to the goal of peace. President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths, and that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable or productive in a democratic Egypt."

Carney noted Morsi has reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel and has shown his willingness to work to preserve peace in the region.

"But we will always speak out against language that espouses religious hatred or encourages the use of violence," Carney said. "And we have raised our concerns over these remarks with the government of Egypt.

"Again, we strongly condemn these comments. And we believe that President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic Egypt."

Cuomo signs N.Y. gun control law

ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 15 (UPI) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday signed into law what supporter said would be the nation's toughest gun-control law.

Cuomo, a Democrat who pressed hard for the sweeping bill's passage, put his signature on the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act an hour after the state Assembly voted 104-43 in favor of the package the Senate had passed 43-18 Monday night, the Albany Times Union reported.

"You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense," Cuomo said before signing the measure.

The National Rifle Association responded to the development by issuing a statement in which it said its members "are outraged at the draconian gun control bill that was rushed through the process late Monday evening."

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a Republican, held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and lamented the additional restrictions placed on gun ownership in the state.

"Amendment Two -- you're going to turn that into Amendment 1.5 today," Tedisco said.

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