House Republican leaders announced on Jan. 1 that the chamber would not vote on a supplemental spending bill to fund Hurricane Sandy-related repairs as well as assistance to victims of the storm.
The announcement came on the final day of the 112th Congress, effectively killing the bill for now and infuriating the governors and congressional delegations from New Jersey and New York, the states hardest hit by the ferocious late October storm.
But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) met with New York and New Jersey lawmakers on Jan. 2 and promised a vote on one part of the Sandy spending measure, a $9-billion infusion for the federal flood insurance program, on Jan. 4 and also said the House would take up a $51-billion package on Jan. 15.
Those pledges appeared to satisfy the lawmakers. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) told reporters on Jan. 2, "The assurances we received from the speaker and majority leader are iron-clad and I think we will proceed" on Jan. 4.
The Senate passed a $60.4-billion Sandy spending package on Dec. 28. But because the House failed to act on the bill before the end of the session, both chambers will need to develop and pass new bills in the 113th Congress, which convenes on Jan. 3.
Boehner's meeting came after the House GOP's failure to act had sparked an outcry from New York and New Jersey legislators and governors, including Republicans. Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y.), in a Jan. 2 floor statement, called the Republican leadership action “disgraceful…indefensible…and immoral.” In a joint statement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) termed the House GOP leaders' decision not to vote on the spending bill a “dereliction of duty.”
The two governors said: “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. This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented.”
Obama also called for House leaders to bring up the bill “without delay."