Democratic and Republican lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and surrounding states came together in consolidated outrage after learning that the Republican-led House of Representatives would not be voting this week on legislation to send tens of billions of dollars of recovery aid to their states in the wake of the devastating Superstorm Sandy.
In a surprise move, a GOP leadership aid confirmed late Tuesday evening that the House would not vote on Sandy aid in the 112th Congress.
A vote to provide aid to victims affected by the storm could come later this week during the 113th Congress, leaving lawmakers to start from scratch on a resolution to the standoff.
After the House passed the “fiscal cliff” deal, members from Sandy-stricken areas on both sides of the aisle took to the floor to decry the lack of action.
“This is an absolute disgrace and the speaker should hang his head in shame,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat.
“I’m here tonight saying to myself for the first time that I’m not proud of the decision my team has made,” said Rep. Michael Grimm, a New York Republican.
“It is the wrong decision, and I’ m going to be respectful and ask that the speaker reconsider his decision. Because it’s not about politics, it’s about human lives,” Grimm added.
The Senate has already acted, approving a $60.4 billion measure Friday to help with recovery from the October storm that devastated parts of New York, New Jersey and nearby states.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that plans were to abandon a vote.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Michael Steel said, “The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.”
In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision “absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.”
More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on relief efforts for 11 states and Washington, D.C. that were struck by the storm, one of the worst ever to hit the Northeast.
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.
Sandy was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states and suffered high winds, flooding and storm surges.
The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.
Members of Congress booed inside the chamber as the House adjourned near midnight.
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