'Shame on Congress,' Christie says
House fails to vote on $60B aaid package for Superstorm Sandy victims
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't know why House Speaker John Boehner didn't allow a vote on a $60 billion aid package to help Superstorm Sandy victims Tuesday or Wednesday, but he was steamed about it.
Christie made his anger known Wednesday afternoon, shortly before a group of New York and New Jersey lawmakers announced that Boehner agreed to have the House vote on a similar aid package by January 15.
"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering" of Sandy victims, and that's Boehner and the House Republican leadership, Christie told reporters Wednesday afternoon, before the January 15 date was announced.
"Shame on on you. Shame on Congress," Christie, a Republican, said.
Christie was just one of many New Jersey and New York politicians upset that the House did not consider the aid proposal on the final two full days of the 112th Congress. A new Congress will be sworn in on Thursday. The Senate had passed a bill that would have provided billions of dollars in aid to victims, but the process will begin anew with the new Congress.
After Christie spoke, lawmakers from New York and New Jersey announced Boehner's January 15 promise, following a meeting that they had with Boehner about the issue. A vote on $9 billion in immediate aid is set for Friday, with the balance of $51 billion due for consideration January 15.
"As far as I'm concerned ... it was an extremely positive" meeting, said U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, who earlier Wednesday called Boehner's Tuesday move a "knife in the back."
Sandy killed at least 113 people in the U.S. and left millions of people without power after running up the East Coast in late October. The storm hit hardest in New York and New Jersey.
Christie said he was given assurances that the House would consider the package after it dealt with the fiscal cliff deal that it passed Tuesday night. But late Tuesday, he said, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told him that the "authority for the (Sandy) vote was pulled by the speaker."
Christie said he then "called the speaker four times last night, and he didn't take my calls."
"Every day that we don't begin to get this aid are days that we can't get people back in their homes, get businesses reopened. ... It's absolutely disgraceful," Christie said.
Getting the fiscal cliff deal passed in the House undoubtedly held up the relief measure, and many conservative House Republicans opposed the size of the Senate bill. Some said there were many unrelated provisions in it for items that were not emergency needs.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, told reporters off the House floor late Tuesday that "leadership was all-consumed with the cliff procedure ... and they really have not had the time to devote to this because of that."
Up until Tuesday night, GOP leaders were working toward a plan of splitting up the vote into two measures: one providing $27 billion for immediate needs and another amendment offering $33 billion for longer-term recovery efforts.
Rogers said he was ready to move his scaled-back bill, but did not give a timetable for the vote in the next Congress.
"FEMA has plenty of money, there's no immediate needs," he said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
King, a New York Republican who also was upset that the House didn't vote on the package, told CNN Wednesday that Rogers "doesn't know what he's talking about."
"The FEMA money is not going to rebuild businesses, that's not going to provide food and shelter, and it's not going to reimburse the local governments," he said.
The bill included grant funding for owners of homes and businesses, as well as funding for public improvement projects on the electric grid, hospitals and transit systems to prevent damage from future storms.
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