Superstorm Sandy damage in Queens
A late-night decision from House Republicans to delay a vote to provide billions of dollars in relief to states hardest hit by superstorm Sandy has sparked a backlash among Democrats and some Northeast Republicans. If a vote isn't held Wednesday, the bill will have to be redrafted when a new Congress convenes, punting the weeks-old relief bill even further down the road.
On the House floor, Rep. Peter King, a Republican from storm-ravaged Long Island, N.Y., blasted the delay as "indefensible" and said Congress had a "moral obligation" to hold the vote. On Wednesday, he urged New Yorkers to withhold all donations to Congressional Republicans in an appearance on Fox News, apparently so hopping mad about the delay that he doesn't mind turning on his own party, reports The Ticket.
"I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," King said. He even hinted he might jump ship from the Republican party altogether if they didn't vote soon.
Democrats have been even harsher in their criticism. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said in a press conference Wednesday that he was "infuriated" by a comment from Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, who said the bill didn't move in the House because it was filled with pork. Schumer said Issa should speak to one of the hundreds of thousands of homeowners who need help repairing their homes and will now face a delay in getting relief.
"Tell that homeowner to his face...that it's pork," Schumer said. He added that Issa would surely not want to face such a delay if an earthquake hit his home state: "I know he wouldn't say the same thing about California."
Schumer added that he now hoped the bill would pass before the end of January, after the inauguration. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had supported a version of the bill that split the aid package into two parts, but House Speaker John Boehner ended up deciding not to bring it up for a vote. "It's a Boehner betrayal," Schumer said.
A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said the Speaker is committed to passing the bill this month. Boehner is meeting with the New York and New Jersey delegations this afternoon and has told them the relief bill is his top priority for the new Congress, a House Republican leadership aide said.
Some Congressional Republicans have said the $60 billion bill, which had already passed in the Senate, is too expensive, does not provide for enough oversight for how the funds are spent—and that there is no real need to pass it quickly. The bill contains $11.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, $17 billion for community grants that help businesses and homeowners with rebuilding and repairs, and $9.7 billion in government flood insurance. Another $11.7 billion would go to fixing damaged mass transit systems, and $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent future flooding.