Victims of Superstorm Sandy can breathe at least a small sigh of relief, as the House of Representatives has finally passed a $50.7 billion aid bill for emergency relief this Tuesday evening. This legislative victory followed a bitter fight between Northeastern Republicans and their counterparts in other regions, namely between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly marched off the House floor immediately following the eleventh-hour fiscal cliff deal the night of January 1stÂ—without even meeting with Northeastern members of congress about the aid bill they had hoped to bring to floor debate shortly afterward. Governor Christie and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) both expressed public outrage over this negligence. This was primarily because it took months after the deadly storm (which hit the New Jersey coast as Hurricane Sandy and collided with a Nor’Easter, earning it the moniker “superstorm”) for even a small aid bill to be passed and signed into law, when emergency relief bills for natural disasters in other regions of the United States have historically been delivered with much more speed.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reiterated this point as southern conservatives continued to make attempts to lessen the amount or to stop the bill’s passage altogether: “I just plead with my colleagues not to have a double standard. Not to vote tornado relief to Alabama, to Louisiana, to Mississippi, Missouri, to–with Ike, Gustav, Katrina, Rita–but when it comes to the Northeast, with the second worst storm in the history of our country, to delay, delay, delay.” She was joined by another Northeastern colleague from across the aisle, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who insisted in the face of Superstorm Sandy’s devastation, “We are not crying wolf here.” The colossal impact of this storm system in the tristate area has left approximately 140 dead, and 40,000 remain displaced as of this writing. Those who have lost their homes or have been forced out by deadly mold are struggling to find shelter during winter months. The fury of local politicians is entirely justified, and it is genuinely shocking that it has taken ten weeks for a substantial bill to be passed, even from a congress with a pitiful 14% approval rating. Republican claims that the proposed Sandy relief bills were “pork-laden” were utterly ridiculous, as Rep. King confirmed to CNN on January 2nd that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor devised a strategy that would have allowed House members to vote against certain parts of the bill and still pass the relief funds. Congress slapped together a quick fix in response to their colleagues’ anger by passing a small $9.7 billion increase to a fund to pay federal flood insurance claims the day after the 113th Congress was sworn in, on January 4th.
Now that this disgraceful display seems to have ended, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut released a joint statement in celebration: “We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut at their greatest time of need. The tradition of Congress being there and providing support for Americans during times of crisis, no matter where they live across this great country, lives on in today’s vote in the House of Representatives.” The Senate is likely to accept the $50.7 billion measure and send it to President Obama’s desk for signature early next week.