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Congress Shelves $60 Billion In Sandy Recovery Money; Local Reps Blame GOP

Frank Lautenberg, Chris Smith and other New Jersey-area congressman rip Congressional leadership for failing to pass the bill

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, Democratic 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.” 

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.

Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican who represents Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean County communities, told congressional members that they "must get us to the $60 billion that is desperately needed to assist families, businesses and municipalities devastated by Superstorm Sandy."

"Numerous towns in my district in New Jersey, as well as our friends in New York and further north, are still coping with and recovering from the most destructive storm ever in our region - and perhaps the second or third most costly in American history," he said.

He also said Congress "assisted those pummeled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with $62 billion in a mere two weeks... we are now past two months and still no Sandy relief bill."

"I respectfully appeal to my colleagues to come together and support this emergency legislation to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy," he said.

The GOP leadership has been 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.

U.S Rep Holt, a Democrat who represents portions of Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Hunterdon and Somerset counties, spoke on the house floor to express his disappointment with the decision.

“In other disasters, such as the disaster associated with Katrina or with wildfires or with any number of other natural disasters, this body has acted, and aid has been provided quickly.  And yet today, the Speaker is going to allow the 112th Congress to adjourn before passing the much-needed disaster relief package.

“The Senate acted on this bill.  The aid package here was well-constructed; it was ready; all we needed was a vote.  And the delay is significant.  It adds significantly to the hurt.  It is not an exaggeration to say that lives are on the line.  People are living wherever they can.  They don’t have the shelter.  They don’t have the businesses.  They don’t have their lives.  And the Speaker just walks away.  That compounds the disaster.  The delay compounds the disaster," said Rep. Holt.

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.

Max R January 02, 2013 at 06:07 PM
This "Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill" is a disgrace. As written and passed in the Senate it includes money to go to Alaska to help their fisheries that suffered damages, $8,000,000 for new Dept of Justice cars, and rebuilding the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, among other typical Senate "Pork." From the Wall Street Journal: There's $150 million in there for Alaskan fisheries. We knew Sandy made it to the Midwest, but Alaska? Marine projects from New England to Mississippi also made the cut. Also along for the joyride is $8 million for new cars and other equipment for the Justice Department and Homeland Security, $2 million for roof repair at the Smithsonian in Washington, $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center, $3 million for oil-spill research and $348 million for the National Park Service. Nearly $17 billion is in the bill for the Community Development Fund and social service grants, two long-running initiatives to fund liberal activists. Amtrak would get $188 million, including funds for two new train tunnels in New York unrelated to Sandy. Amtrak already got $1.4 billion last year. And of course some $600 million is directed to the Environmental Protection Agency to support climate change adaptation http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323277504578191630132696220.html?KEYWORDS=sandy+bill
Linda January 02, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Thank you Max for putting in print the insanity that is known as our representatives in Washington! I have been stewing all day on this garbage. I am a registered Republican, however I am happy this bill (how apppropriate the word bill is) failed. They just don't care how our tax dollars are wasted. I want someone to tell me why the "Sandy" bill didn't stand on it's own. Who was it that said something like never let a crisis go to waste? Pox on all their houses. Christie should be pissed off that this is how the "aid" was presented for a vote. Instead of blaming Republicans, I have to wonder why the Democrats don't care enough for the Sandy victims! God knows we are still hearing about Katrina!!!
Linda January 02, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Oh Frank Lautenberg is still working? What is he a 150 by now? How unfortunate! I would love to hear this re-run explain all the pork in this corrupt lousy lib bill! We pay them to extort our money to give to their pet projects!
Marina January 03, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Obviously the GOP didn't read past the bills title. AND the dems are angry that their pork didn't get through. The GOP whinners should be happy this bill didn't get voted on. CLEAN UP THE BILL Christieand the other GOP's needs to shut the heck up since their making a fools of himself. REMOVE ALL THE PORK>>CLEAN UP THIS BILL!
Rick January 04, 2013 at 08:18 PM
I love what Lautenberg said about putting partisanship aside and working together.However that is something he has NEVER done.

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