After finally passing the Senate’s bill to narrowly avoid the fiscal cliff late Tuesday evening, Republicans put an end to the do-nothing 112th Congress by refusing to hold a vote on Hurricane Sandy disaster relief funding.
Late last week, the Senate passed a $60 billion relief package with the help of several Republicans, but Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not even take up the bill. On Wednesday morning, Boehner’s office told The Hill that the Speaker intends to pass a relief bill in the new Congress later this month, but the delay means that the Senate will have to draft and pass an entirely new bill for the 113th Congress.
A parade of congressmen from the impacted region raised strong objections on the House floor, including several Republicans. “Mr. Speaker, tonight’s action not to hold this vote on the supplemental is absolutely indefensible,” said Rep. Peter King (R-NY), whose Long Island district was among the most heavily impacted by the storm. “Everybody played by the rules, except tonight when the rope is pulled out from under us. Absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We have a moral obligation to hold this vote.”
Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $78.7 billion in damage across New York and New Jersey alone when it made landfall in late October. In the last few years, House Republicans have embraced the practice of holding disaster relief hostage in exchange for Democratic concessions on spending cuts, but in each instance they have ultimately backed down and passed relief aid.