Anger Erupts After House Scraps Vote On Sandy Aid

3:15 PM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
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There is nothing but anger and fury coming from New York and New Jersey politicians on Wednesday, as President Obama and Republicans lash out at House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP-led House for skipping a vote on federal aid to help victims of Superstorm Sandy.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, blamed the "toxic" nature of Congress and "palace intrigue" in Washington on Wednesday for the failure to help people 66 days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in his state.

"Folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities," Christie said during a news conference Trenton. "New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are tired of being treated like second-class citizens. ... Shame on Congress."

The House took no action on the disaster aid late Tuesday, despite assurances from Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that a vote would be held before the new year. Words like "betrayal," "disgraceful," and "knife in our back" have been used by Christie, Rep. Pete King of New York and other lawmakers since then.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, told USA TODAY that "the speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month." The speaker will meet with members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations this afternoon.

Christie, Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are united in seeking a vote without haste.

"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," Obama said in a statement, stressing that there are people who "need immediate support with the bulk of winter in front of us."

"When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need," he said.

In a joint statement issued earlier Wednesday, Christie and Cuomo noted that the failure to come to the aid of natural disaster victims "is unprecedented."

Christie said victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 received an initial infusion of federal aid 10 days after that storm and those affected by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 received a response from the federal government and Congress within 31 days.

The Senate approved $60.4 billion in aid on Friday to help New York, New Jersey and other states that were ravaged by the late October storm. The House Appropriations Committee had crafted a smaller, $27 billion Sandy aid bill.

More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on Sandy relief efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund still has about $4.3 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring, according to officials.

More than 125 people died as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which caused more than $60 billion in damage -- much of it to communities along the Eastern Seaboard.

Some of the urgency stems from the way Congress works. If a Sandy aid bill is not approved before new lawmakers are sworn in Thursday, then the legislative process begins anew in the 113th Congress. Plus, lawmakers aren't scheduled to work much in January because of Obama's inauguration and other scheduling details.

On the House floor Wednesday morning, GOP Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said he apologized to his constituents and pledged to keep fighting for the federal aid for Sandy victims.

"There is no rhyme nor reason and it is inexcusable that it has not come already," said Grimm, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn.

King, who is finishing his 10th term in the House, would not say during a CNN interview whether he will vote for Boehner as speaker when the 113th Congress convenes on Thursday. He urged his fellow Republicans - who frequently raise campaign cash in New York City - to withhold their donations to the House GOP campaign committee as a sign of their outrage.

"Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value," King said in the CNN interview.

Contributing: Martha T. Moore; Associated Press

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