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Outrage as House Fails to Vote on Sandy Relief, Bishop Presses Speaker

Rep. Tim Bishop calls decision to scrap vote on $60.4 billion in Sandy aid "unconscionable."

The House of Representatives will not vote on a $60.4 billion disaster relief bill that the Senate approved last Friday to aid Hurricane Sandy victims on Long Island and other hard hit areas from the storm, House officials said Tuesday.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pulled the bill back from a vote that was expected Wednesday after a late night session in Congress on New Year’s Day. Rep. Peter King, R-Seaford, the congressman who is primarily pushing for the emergency aid package, said failure to hold the vote means certain funds that require authorization – including FEMA disaster monies – will be delayed, possibly by another five to six weeks, according to Newsday.

King, in a fiery speech on the House floor Tuesday night, said officials in New York and New Jersey had provided the Republican House leadership with all of the storm-related documentation it had asked for prior to a vote.

"Everybody played by the rules, except tonight when the rug was pulled out from under us," King said. "Absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We have a moral obligation to hold this vote."

Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, told Patch he left the Capitol around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday after voting on the fiscal cliff measure and made the 12-minute or so walk to his D.C. home fully expecting a Wednesday vote on Sandy aid.  

Ten minutes after he got home, a member of his staff called Bishop to inform him that the House leadership was killing the vote, at least for this session of Congress.

"I was just stunned," said Bishop, explaining that House members had been told repeatedly that the vote would take place either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Bishop spoke out Wednesday morning on the House floor. 

"It’s unconscionable that this chamber would walk away from a region desperate for assistance in its greatest hour of need," he said. "We do not accept this shockingly callous indifference to the human suffering in our districts that our constituents and tens of thousands of their fellow citizens continue to endure."

Bishop said the decision to delay aid was in "stark contrast" to when the first $62 billion in federal aid arrived to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 within the first two weeks.

"More than two months after our region was struck, our constituents are still waiting for help," said Bishop, who later told Patch that the delay in aid "at a minimum contributes to the uncertainty and anxiety and the suffering, frankly, that so many people are dealing with."

Members from both sides of the aisle blasted House leaders [see AP video above] Tuesday night following the fiscal cliff vote when they learned the Sandy aid vote was being scrapped.

"I feel it is a personal betrayal," Rep. Michael Grimm, R-Staten Island, said, according to NBC News. "But I think more importantly, when you parse out all the politics, the people of this country that have been devastated are looking at this as a betrayal by the Congress and by the nation, and that is just untenable and unforgivable."

Meanwhile, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, said the speaker is “committed to getting the bill passed this month,” according to the Associated Press.

The Senate last week passed the emergency aid package by a vote of 63-32. With a new Congress set to be sworn in on Thursday, however, the process will need to start over.

Bishop questioned Boehner's assertion that the bill will be passed this month, explaining that Congress is only in session for about four full days in January.

"The speaker can give all the assurances that he wants about how there is going to be a vote in January, but I don't see it happening," Bishop said. "We are simply not here enough."

King, speaking with CNN Wednesday, unleashed on his own party, saying "these people have no problem finding New York, these Republicans, when they are trying to raise money.

"I'm saying anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a joint statement Wednesday on the topic, calling the "continued inaction and indifference" by the House "inexcusable."

"The people of our states can no long afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games," the statement says.

Stinker January 02, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Pete King seems like a good guy, but he is lying to all of us. There is no greater fraud than a politician feiging shock and dismay when faced with the very politics on which they have based their entire life.
Stinker January 02, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Bishop did, however, humbly accept the pay raise he and his fellow members of Congress received after somehow they were able to conjure up bi-partisan support for that bill.
Localtucker January 02, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Sure, lets not talk about the enormous amount of pork attached to this bill, why can't our congressmen write and pass a bill with intentions towards the goal they wish to accomplish?
Stinker January 02, 2013 at 05:03 PM
It also looks like the government's response to Katrina was much better than that of Sandy. You voters are being taken for granted - the dems know you are brain-dead suckers and that NY will remain blue - so no need to give you any of your tax dollars back in the form of aid. Taxes up and much needed aid scrapped, re-elections all secured. Forward Blue State!
Preliator January 02, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Does it really matter anymore? Over 50% of Americans polled think the country is in the decline, that our best days are behind us. Happy New Year.
Mary Beth January 02, 2013 at 06:56 PM
The republican party is a sham. A disgrace. Even their fellow party members say that the teaparty has destroyed the party. Peter King and Chris Cristi agree: "I'm saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," he said in an interview on Fox News. "Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace."
Rick Hoyt January 02, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Mary Beth - Both Parties Are a Sham - Not Surprised, No Budget in 4 Years, Doing This Vote In The Wee Hours On New Year's Day, Nobody Gets To Read it, Where Are Cuts ? 17T in Debt, Swell Job, Not.They Got Their Raise Sure Nuf.Next Moronic Event - Raising The Debt Ceiling,This Is Dysfunction Ad Naseum.Got Transparency ?
Darren Gengarelly Sr. January 02, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Well said Stinker. The double standard and "do as i say not as i do" attitude runs deep. I wonder how much aid Iowa got when there capital was devastated?
cm January 02, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Great job bishop!!!!! I feel better each day that you didn't get my vote. Bishop has no voice... and here I thought dem's had nothing but loud voices.... nothing to back up..besides buying votes.
Jaguar-Guy January 03, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Only 23% of amerikans believe the country is headed in the right direction.
Ralebird January 03, 2013 at 07:21 AM
Stinky - Don't let the FACT that the Democrats and many Republicans were ready to vote for this aid but the vote itself was blocked by the Republican leadership get in the way of your ignorant rant.
Ralebird January 03, 2013 at 07:23 AM
Congratulations to Peter King for developing a backbone and standing up to his own party's leadership, unfortunately after about four hours he reverted to spinelessness.
Ralebird January 03, 2013 at 07:25 AM
We don't care about you guys. How do the real Americans feel?

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