Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and other New York area-lawmakers express their anger after learning the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
After a day of withering criticism, House Speaker John Boehner told
New York and New Jersey lawmakers the GOP-led House will vote Friday on
$9 billion in flood insurance for states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.
More action on emergency relief aid, which is expected to total about $60 billion, has been scheduled for Jan. 15.
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 delegation," Boehner and House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in a joint statement.
leaders gave assurances to the New York and New Jersey lawmakers on the
timing of the votes after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Throughout the day, there was anger and fury from Northeastern
politicians - and even some Southerners such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney,
R-S.C. - about the delay in Sandy aid.
In a rare display of
unity, President Obama and members of both parties lashed out at Boehner
and the majority Republicans for skipping a vote on federal aid.
Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, blamed the "toxic" nature of
Congress and "palace intrigue" in Washington for the failure to help
people 66 days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in his state.
only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent
victims: The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," Christie
said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Trenton, N.J.
"Folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities. New
Jerseyans and New Yorkers are tired of being treated like second-class
House took no action on the disaster aid late Tuesday, even though
Christie and other lawmakers said they got assurances from Boehner and
Cantor that a vote would be held before the new year. Words like
"betrayal," "disgraceful," and "knife in the back" had been used by
Christie, Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., and other lawmakers throughout
President Obama spoke to both Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the day. They all agreed a quick vote was needed.
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," the president said.
a joint statement issued earlier Wednesday, Christie and Cuomo noted
that the failure to come to the aid of natural disaster victims "is
Christie said victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005
received an initial infusion of federal aid 10 days after that storm
first hit and those affected by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 received a
response from the federal government and Congress within 31 days.
he learned there would be no House vote, Christie said he called
Boehner four times and could not get the speaker on the phone. They
spoke Wednesday but Christie said he did not receive any "credible
reason" for the delay.
King said New York and New Jersey
Republicans were told by Boehner that the timing wasn't right Tuesday
for a vote on the disaster aid. At the time, tensions were high in the
House as members dealt with a bill on the "fiscal cliff."
Senate approved $60.4 billion in disaster aid last 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
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. With new lawmakers being sworn in Thursday, 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.
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., expressed concern that a new Congress presents new hurdles.
did an enormous amount of leg work," LoBiondo said after meeting with
Boehner and Cantor. "We knew that we needed a certain number of
Republican votes and I believe we had exceeded that by our counts ... by
a pretty wide margin. Now a lot of those people are not here, they just
are not going to be in the next Congress."
King, who is
finishing his 10th term in the House, would not say during a CNN
interview on Wednesday morning whether he would vote for Boehner as
speaker when the 113th Congress convenes on Thursday. King agreed to
back Boehner following Wednesday's meeting.
Earlier in the day, King 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
"Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value," King said in the CNN interview.