Congress Shelves $60B Sandy Recovery, Politicians Blame GOP
Frank Lautenberg, Chris Smith and other elected officials ripped Congressional leadership for failing to pass a relief package that would have brought money to storm-ravaged areas.
Officials from states hardest hit by Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy blasted Congressional Republicans Wednesday for not passing a bill that would fund $60 billion toward recovery efforts.
In a release, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said the move denies aid to "families, communities and businesses that were devastated by one of the worst storms to ever hit the United States," and called it "a new low for House Republicans.”
Lautenberg said Congress should put partisan politics aside in this instance, as it does for other disaster recovery efforts, and "extend a helping hand to help [victims] get back up."
"Helping struggling families recover from disasters has never been a partisan issue in Washington and it never should be," he said. "New Jersey and New York families have been hurt badly by Sandy and it is shameful that Washington Republicans are adding to their pain by standing in the way of their recovery.”
The House of Representatives adjourned on Tuesday night without acting on the $60 billion disaster aid bill, eliciting angry reactions from residents of the states hardest hit by the storm.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) told Congressional members that they "must get us to the $60 billion that is desperately needed to assist families, businesses and municipalities devastated by Superstorm Sandy."
"Numerous towns in my district in New Jersey, as well as our friends in New York and further north, are still coping with and recovering from the most destructive storm ever in our region—and perhaps the second- or third-most costly in American history," he said.
Smith also said Congress "assisted those pummeled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with $62 billion in a mere two weeks... we are now past two months and still no Sandy relief bill."
"I respectfully appeal to my colleagues to come together and support this emergency legislation to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy," he said.
"We cannot abandon our responsibilities"
The current session of the House officially ended Wednesday after the new Congress elected in November gets sworn in, according to an NBC News report. Legislation does not carry over from session to session, so consideration of an aid bill has to start all over Thursday if—as expected—nothing is scheduled before then.
In a statement reported by NBC News, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said, "The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month."
In tweets and press releases, congressional representatives said the time to fund the recovery efforts is now, noting that thousands are still without homes and the summer economy of the Jersey Shore depends upon future reconstruction.
"It is outrageous that @SpeakerBoehner blocked a vote on the #Sandy aid package. House must pass relief bill immediately. #NJ needs help now!" U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), whose district covers Middlesex and Monmouth counties, tweeted Wednesday morning.
A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers gathered after protesting the move on the House floor after the House voted late Tuesday night to pass a bill to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to NBC. That bill passed 257-167.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he learned from Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office that Boehner would abandon a vote in this Congress, according to the Associated Press. Cantor sets the House schedule; he did not immediately comment.
Obama, Christie, Cuomo weigh in
Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama each released statements Wednesday expressing disappointment over the failure of the House of Representatives to vote on the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy Aid Package and urged Congress to make the bill a priority when it reconvenes Thursday.
Christie issued a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late Wednesday morning chastising the House for its seeming indifference when it comes to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable," the release stated. "It has not been 66 days since Hurricane Sandy hit and 27 days since President Obama put forth a responsible aid proposal that passed with a bipartisan vote in the Senate while the House has failed to even bring it to the floor.
This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented. The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty. When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House last night.
The people of our states can no long afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games.
Like the joint statement issued by Christie and Cuomo, Obama's message focused on the delay in which it's taken to fund Sandy recovery.
It has only been two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as other eastern states. Our citizens are still trying to put their lives back together. Our states are still trying to rebuild vital infrastructure. And so, last month, working closely with the Governors of the affect states, I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover. The Senate passed this request with bipartisan support. But the House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead, and who also still need immediate support with the bulk of winter still in front of us.
When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans.