Electeds decry delay on vote for Sandy aid

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

Queens lawmakers denounced Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday for failing to vote on a recovery package that would help New York and New Jersey rebuild after being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

“This is an act of spiteful indifference that will go down in history as a low point in a low era,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said.

Although the U.S. Senate passed a bill last week that would supply $60.4 billion in aid to the storm-battered regions, the House did not take up the measure on Tuesday night as the end of the legislative session neared.

After a day of intense criticism, including blasts from Rep. Peter King (R-Massapequa Park) and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised he would hold a vote on $9 billion in disaster aid Friday and would schedule a vote on the remaining $51 billion for Jan. 15.

But Queens officials said the state urgently needs the aid now and accused Republicans of turning their backs on the storm victims.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said he had been told the reason for inaction was that Republicans could not stomach voting on additional legislation in the current legislative session.

“I wonder if they walked along the beaches of Breezy Point, Staten Island or Seaside Heights if they could ‘stomach’ the devastation,” he said. “Stomach the lives lost, homes destroyed or families still displaced. Stomach the businesses that are closed and, in many places, have been lost.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Christie released a joint statement excoriating the failure to act, saying it was a dereliction of duty.

“It has now been 66 days since Hurricane Sandy hit and 27 days since President Obama put forth a responsible aid proposal that passed with a bipartisan vote in the Senate while the House has failed to even bring it to the floor,” they said. “This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented.”

Maloney spoke about aid packages quickly passed for victims of previous hurricanes while Sandy victims were still waiting. It took two weeks for Congress to pass a bill for Hurricane Katrina victims and a month for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, she said.

“The damage to our region was unprecedented,” she said. “Yet it’s now been nine weeks since the most densely populated region of our country was hit by one of the most destructive storms to hit our country.”

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

More from Around New York