Northeast Governors Outraged About Sandy Aid Delay
By Jim Malewitz, Staff Writer
More than two months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged their shores, Northeastern governors are outraged that gridlocked Washington has yet to send an aid package their way.
Frustration boiled over on Wednesday (January 3), the day after the U.S. House, finishing up a compromise to avert the nation’s “fiscal cliff,” scrapped a vote on the $60.4 billion relief plan approved last month by the Senate. The delay means that lawmakers must start the process from scratch after a new Congress is sworn in Thursday.
Chris Christie, the ever-blunt New Jersey Governor, led the verbal barrage on the House’s Republican leadership, calling its move “disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
"It’s been 66 days and the wait continues,” Christie, a fellow Republican said. “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The house majority, and their speaker, John Boehner.”
Sandy damaged or destroyed about 346,000 homes in New Jersey alone, leaving as many as 7 million people without power, some for up to two weeks.
“This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented,” said a joint statement from Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. “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.”
The governors have underscored their region’s long wait for aid relative to states hit by other storms. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf States in 2005, Congress approved a $51.8 billion package in just 10 days. When Hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit the region in 2008, lawmakers sent more than $20 billion within 17 days. In 1992, George H.W. Bush signed a relief package 31 days after Hurricane Andrew made landfall.
House Republicans have criticized the package that cleared the Senate, saying it has been loaded with spending for projects unrelated to the storm. Senators “packed this with pork,” U.S. Representative Darrell Issa told FOX News. “The relief will come early next year, but it will come at the $27 billion level, or I don’t expect to be voting for it.”
But other lawmakers, including U.S. Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican, insist the House could have passed a scaled-down version of the legislation, CQ Roll Call reported.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, sent a letter to Boehner on Wednesday urging him to reconsider his decision to delay the vote.
“It sends a terrible message to the citizens of the affected states that the leadership of the House of Representatives feels no sense of urgency, with winter upon us, to aid fellow citizens in a great time of need,” the letter said.
Responding to the criticism, Boehner and Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, issued a joint statement, saying the House will vote Friday to address the needs of the National Flood Insurance Program, and will consider the Sandy aid package on January 15.
"Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations,” the statement said.