NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a smack down of unprecedented proportions.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was met with criticism from both sides of the political spectrum Wednesday for his sudden decision to pull the plug on the vote for desperately needed aid for Superstorm Sandy victims.
Following the barrage of attacks, Boehner assured Tri-State lawmakers that a vote on the full $60.4 billion aid bill will come in less than two weeks.
“It’s going to be $9 billion on flood insurance this Friday will be voted on. And then on Jan. 15, the first full legislative day, will be the additional $51 billion will be voted on and that’ll come to a total of $60 [billion], which is what the total was of the bill that was supposed to be voted on this week,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) announced Wednesday afternoon. “All I care about is my constituents, the constituents of New York and New Jersey who were absolutely devastated. Clearly, the Speaker responded and I take him at his word.”
Both bills will have to be approved by the Senate as well.
Following his earlier harsh words for the top Republican in the House, King also said he planned to vote for Boehner to retain his title of Speaker of the House on Thursday.
Stunningly, some of the harshest criticism for Boehner came from members of his own party, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
CHRISTIE: BLAME BOEHNER
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn’t hold back when calling out fellow Republicans in the continued fight to secure more federal aid for the victims of Sandy.
“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims — the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner,” Christie said.
Upset over the number of days it has taken for lawmakers in Washington to act, Christie called the decision by GOP leadership to end its term without approving the $60.4 billion bill “disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg Reports
“We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before our oath to serve our citizens,” Christie said.
“New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are tired of being treated like second-class citizens,” Christie Added. “New York deserves better than the selfishness we saw on display last night. New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display last night. America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why. Sixty-six days and counting. Shame on you. Shame on Congress.”
On Friday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $60.4 billion measure to help with recovery. The House Appropriations Committee drafted a smaller version for $27 billion with plans to add an amendment for additional long-term help.
A vote had been expected before Congress’ term ended Thursday at noon. But since the Republican leadership opted to abandon it, representatives on both sides of the aisle lashed out.
The Garden State’s governor continued his diatribe by saying “Last night the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state.”
WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports
Christie said he felt “betrayed” by the inaction of lawmakers and how the House leadership played New York and New Jersey like “pawns.” He also conveyed that residents in his state were likely feeling the same way.
“Everything is a possibility, a potential piece of bait for the political game. And it’s just…it is why the American people hate Congress,” Christie said.
MORE CRITICISM OVER AID
Area lawmakers from both parties also took to the floor of the House on Wednesday to blast the GOP leadership for its decision to end its term without approving the aid.
Several lawmakers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said Speaker Boehner’s decision to abandon a vote this session would be a crushing blow to states ravaged by the devastating storm.
WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports
“There was a betrayal,” said Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). “There was an error in judgment that is going to cost, I think, the trust of the American people.”
“How can we treat an entire region of the country this way,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). “It is the most disgraceful action I’ve seen in this House in 20 years I’ve been here.”
Long Island Rep. King called it a “cruel knife in the back.”
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“I have to go home this weekend and next week and the week after and see the hundreds, the thousands of people who are out of their homes, who don’t have shelter and who don’t have food,” King said on the House floor.
He said some Republicans have a double standard when it comes to providing aid to New York and New Jersey.
“These people have no problem finding New York when it comes to raising money,” King said. “It’s only when it comes to allocating money that they can’t find the ability to do it.”
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports
“Mr. Speaker, reverse your decision now and let’s do the right thing by our people,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on the House floor.
“Government is about helping families recover and rebuild from major disasters like Superstorm Sandy,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) added. “In a shocking display of neglect, this House majority decided not to allow a vote on disaster aid funds so desperately needed to recover and repair from this storm.”
WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reports
“This should not be about politics,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.). “We need leadership.”
Other lawmakers of Boehner’s own party also blasted the inaction.
“This is a disaster on top of a disaster,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said on the floor Wednesday. “We need the federal government to step up so people’s lives can be put back together.”
1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reports
“Never before has this country walked away from its obligations to help its fellow Americans in the wake of a natural disaster. But that’s exactly what the House Republican leadership told New Jersey and New York, in essence, to drop dead,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told WCBS 880.
Speaking at a news conference in his Midtown office, Sen. Charles Schumer said Boehner “pulled out the rug from under us at the last-minute.”
“We gave relief to Katrina within a week. Almost every other major disaster has gotten relief within a month. We are now two and a half months away from when Sandy hit and there is still no relief for New York,” Schumer told reporters, including WCBS 880’s John Metaxas. “This failure to get relief now could be called the ‘Boehner Betrayal.'”
“This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented,” Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement. “When American citizens are in need we come to their aid. That tradition was abandoned in the House.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Conn.) criticized House leadership for delaying a vote on aid.
“This federal assistance would have been a big help to communities across the state,” Malloy said. “But for reasons only the House GOP leadership can explain, that aid has been postponed to the next Congress.”
Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey and more than 305,000 homes and 265,000 businesses in New York.
STATEN ISLANDERS REACT TO DELAYED VOTE
“We thought people were trying to help us then they don’t vote on it,” said New Dorp resident Denise Kelly. “To me, it was a no brainer.”
In the South Beach section of Staten Island, the signs of devastation from Sandy remain. Plywood remains in place where doors and windows used to be, siding that was blown off homes has still not been replaced and collapsed and uninhabitable houses await demolition.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports
“It’s a whole lot different when you watch it on TV like we did with Katrina. You need to come here and actually see what actual people are going through. This is torture, this is horror,” a resident named “Nick” told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I just don’t know what we’re going to do anymore.”
Nick said he has electricity in his home, but no heat, hot water or walls. When the water receded, he said he found four dead fish in his living room.
“We can’t live like this. We’re Americans. We’re American citizens. We pay taxes. We don’t break our backs, you know, for nobody to come and help us,” he said.
Others on Staten Island said any delay in aid is hard to swallow.
“Come down here, live here for a week and see how it is. I give them one week,” another resident added.
“I think it’s terrible. It’s awful, especially for Staten Island,” a man told Haskell.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he is disappointed the Sandy bill was not introduced this session, but went out of his way not to criticize Republican House leadership, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“It is up to the Speaker John Boehner to decide what bills get brought up when. I talked to him this morning and he assured me this would be considered during the month of January. I am still optimistic that it will pass,” Bloomberg said.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are among 11 states and the District of Columbia receiving federal aid. More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far.
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