Northeastern Republicans have expressed their outrage with Speaker John Boehner’s decision to unexpectedly cancel a vote late Tuesday night on a relief package for super-storm Sandy victims, which was passed by the Senate last week but was waiting on action from the House to provide an aid package worth $60 billion.
After House leaders met with angry representatives from New York and New Jersey who felt they had been ignored by Boehner, New York Republican Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm told reporters that the House’s failure to hold a vote should be blamed on Boehner. Some have described this move as “The Boehner Betrayal.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters in New York Wednesday that Majority Leader Eric Cantor was “truly helpful” in piecing the $60.4 billion aid bill together and pointed a finger at Boehner. “Cantor has been very much for us, but Speaker Boehner… pulled the rug out from under us. It’s a Boehner betrayal.”
Rep. Pete King said on MSNBC that “Republicans have no trouble finding New York when it comes to raising money. And I would just say: anyone from New York or New Jersey, who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans after this should have their head examined.”
In a news conference, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chimed in and stated that Boehner had also ignored his phone calls. “I called the speaker four times. He did not take my calls. All I can tell you was this was the speaker’s decision–his alone.”
Christie continued, “I think, unfortunately, folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities. It’s absolutely disgraceful… It’s why the American people hate Congress.”
West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a close friend of the speaker’s and a candidate for Senate in 2014, sent a letter today urging the speaker to call a House vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief package.
“West Virginia has been hit hard by natural disasters this year. Since February, our state has suffered three events which the president has declared major disasters. Rural and mountainous regions were especially impacted by heavy rain and snowfall, causing prolonged road closures, school closures and power outages. Like other states that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, we need extra resources for a speedy recovery from the damages,” stated Capito. “I believe the House should pass legislation to provide these much-needed resources for affected communities.”
The speaker has given some ground after the public fury, stating that the House will hold a vote Friday on $9 billion in Sandy supplemental aid, followed by another vote on $51 billion on Jan. 15th.
Rep. Peter King tweeted,
Met with Speaker Boehner & he pledges to bring $60B Sandy aid bill to the floor by January 15. Very positive result.
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) January 2, 2013
King told CNN Wednesday afternoon that it was “all the more painful for me to say what I had to say” since he considered John Boehner a friend, and that he will ensure the speaker’s promise to follow through on his commitment to the vote.
President Obama spoke with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Christie Wednesday about the Sandy supplemental request pending in the House, and agreed with their push for its passage.
“Last month, working closely with the governors of the affected states, I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover. 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.”
New York and New Jersey’s governors released a joint statement, stressing the urgency for the passage of this bill.
“This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented. 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. The people of our states can no long afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games.”
A senior Republican leadership aide said Boehner will make the Sandy aid bill “his first priority in the new Congress,” which begins its term this Thursday. However, the Senate’s recent passage of the bill will be outdated and legislators will have to start the relief package from scratch. Because bills automatically die at the end of a Congress, the Sandy funding will have to be reintroduced after the 113th Congress convenes Thursday.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, described to reporters that this task will not be easy. “Getting $60 billion is not an easy task even in the best of times and these were hardly the best of times,” he said. “We’re going to have to start over.”