Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was one of only two Republicans from the Tennessee delegation to vote on Friday in favor of a bill to provide $9.7 billion in additional funds for assisting flood insurance claims related to Superstorm Sandy.
Along with Fleischmann, 6th District Rep. Diane Black voted in favor of the legislation, which all other Tennessee GOP House members opposed.
The legislation passed 354-67.
Fleischmann, who began his second term Thursday, has portrayed himself to voters as a fiscal Conservative committed to curbing government spending. A spokesman for the congressman explained his vote Friday by hearkening back to requests made by Fleischmann for federal assistance that were made for areas of East Tennessee affected by tornado outbreaks in both 2011 and 2012.
Both times, the congressman signed his name to letters requesting federal monies.
"In 2011 and 2012, when East Tennessee was hit by devastating tornadoes, our communities received federal assistance to help recover," Tyler Threadgill, spokesman for Fleischmann, said in an emailed statement. "Superstorm Sandy was a horrific event, and it will take the impacted areas years to rebuild. This bill is purely for Sandy recovery and is lined with oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse."
Fleischmann's neighboring congressman, 4th District Rep. Scott DesJarlais, said the spending costs were too great to support the bill outright.
"While my heart goes out to those affected by this tragedy, we must offset this spending," DesJarlais said. "I agree that this is an emergency, and with yearly trillion dollar deficits, we should be able to easily find emergency dollars."
The bill will allow for the National Flood Insurance Program, which is handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to increase its borrowing authority by an additional $9.7 billion. Since the October storm, which devastated portions of the northeastern United States, more than $1.7 billion in Sandy-related claims have been covered under the program, according to a New York Times report.
Still, conservative groups urged lawmakers to vote against the legislation. The Club for Growth, a conservative organization that ranks members of Congress based on votes, warned House members Friday that any vote in favor of the bill would be counted against them.
"Congress should not allow the federal government to be involved in the flood insurance industry in the first place, let alone expand the National Flood Insurance Program's authority," leaders for the group said in a statement.
Fleischmann currently boasts an 86 percent score—49th out 435 House members—on the organization's website. DesJarlais boasts a 77 percent score—83rd in the House—on the ranking, which tallies scores based upon votes related to tax, spending and trade issues.
Later on Friday, the Senate unanimously voted to approve the House legislation.
The bill comes days after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner opted to pull a $60 billion relief bill from the floor following a vote on the fiscal cliff, drawing ire from Republican northeastern lawmakers and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The bill won't be the only piece of Sandy-related legislation coming to the House floor this month. On Jan. 15, the body is expected to take up a measure that could allow for up to an additional $51 billion in federal aid to be granted.
Threadgill said Fleischmann was "studying the legislation" in anticipation of the vote.
Updated @ 3:39 p.m. on 01/04/13 to attribute a quote to Fleischmann's spokesman instead of Fleischmann himself.
Updated @ 8:51 a.m. on 01/07/13 to clarify the headline.