Sandy Victims Forced to Wait Out Political 'Games,' Govs Say
Christie, Cuomo, local representatives react to Congress shelving $60 billion in recovery money.
Officials from states hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy blasted Congressional Republicans on Wednesday for not passing a bill that would fund $60 billion toward recovery efforts.
In a release, Sen. Frank Lautenberg 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.
“Denying emergency aid to Superstorm Sandy victims is a new low for House Republicans," Lautenberg said.
Lautenberg said Congress should put partisan politics aside, as it does for other disaster recovery efforts, and "extend a helping hand to help them 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.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement released Wednesday, "the people of our states can no long afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games."
"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 statement read.
"This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented," the statement continued. "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."
President Barack Obama said in a statement that he sent Congress last month "an urgent request" to support the recovery effort in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
"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," the president's statement read.
"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."
The House of Representatives adjourned on Tuesday night without acting on the $60 billion disaster aid bill, prompting members from the states hardest hit by the storm to react angrily.
The GOP leadership was criticized for what one Republican called a "personal betrayal" after it was decided that the bill would not be considered until the 113th Congress, which convenes at noon on Thursday, according to news reports.
The current session of the House comes to an end officially on 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 would have to start all over if, as expected, nothing is scheduled before then.
In a statement reported by NBC News, a spokesman for 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 Jersey Shore's summer economy is depending on 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!" Rep. Frank Pallone, 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.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said late Tuesday he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had decided to abandon a vote this session, according to the Associated Press.
Cantor, who sets the House schedule, did not immediately comment. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters that just before Tuesday evening's vote on "fiscal cliff" legislation, Cantor told him that he was "99.9 percent confident that this bill would be on the floor, and that's what he wanted," the AP reported.
In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision "absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities," the AP reported.