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House GOP scraps vote on Sandy aid

5:57 AM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON - House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio indicated late Tuesday the 112th Congress would end its term without voting on federal emergency aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

"The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month," Boehner's spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in an email.

Buck also emailed a news article reporting that Craig Fugate, head of the the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said his agency will not need additional money until spring.

FEMA money will not cover everything needed by states hit by Sandy. Other needs include claims filed under the National Flood Insurance Program, repairs to mass transit and Community Development Block grants needed to help localities rebuild.

Lawmakers from Northeast states had hoped the House would vote Wednesday on the $60.4 billion aid package that passed the Senate on Friday.

If the House leaves the aid package to the next Congress, the new Senate will have to vote on the package again.

News that a House vote would not come this Congress drew outraged responses from Republican and Democratic House members from New York and New Jersey, many of whom went to the floor around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to express their dismay.

House Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Boehner declined to discuss plans for the Sandy aid vote during Tuesday night's House floor vote on the "fiscal cliff."

Hoyer said House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia told him immediately after the vote he was "99.9 percent confident'' the Sandy aid package would go the floor, but he was waiting for word from Boehner.

Soon after that, a Boehner aide told Cantor's staff there would be no vote. The message was conveyed to Republican Rep. Peter King of Long Island, who represents the shore communities hard hit by Sandy.

King described the decision to walk away from a Sandy aid vote as inexcusable and wrong.

"I think it's unprecedented for the United States Congress to walk away from a natural disaster,'' King said, adding that he was not given a reason for the postponement. "This to me is just walking away from responsibility.''

King and Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island, who represents some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, joined Democrats at an impromptu news conference to publicly plead for Boehner to reconsider.

Grimm described himself as "somewhat in disbelief and almost ashamed,'' adding that he's "not proud'' of the decision his party has made.

Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York said victims of Sandy shouldn't suffer because of congressional dysfunction.

Democratic Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey said he wishes he could speak eloquently on the issue, "but I'm afraid my anger is going to get the better of me."

"Why would we not help each other as this House has always done?" he said.

Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey said House leaders have failed the people of New Jersey.

"Our people are in great need of assistance," he said. "Every time we have been called upon to help other areas of the country, we have responded. It is outrageous that our needs are being pushed aside tonight."

The 113th Congress will be in session Thursday and Friday and then recess for a week.

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