While many Americans are relieved that the country won’t go tumbling off the much ballyhooed fiscal cliff (yet, anyway) there are thousands for whom relief is nowhere in sight. This week, to the shock of many of his fellow Congresspeople, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House’s vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill would be postponed until the 113th Congress is sworn in on January 21st. For the residents of New York and New Jersey who are still struggling to recover from the devastating superstorm, the decision was the ultimate betrayal, and yet another sign that our wealthy elected officials are devoid of empathy for their constituents.
To their credit, politicians from both sides of the aisle were appalled at Boehner’s surprise announcement. “You can imagine my shock, disappointment, and yes, disgust…that the House was going to conclude its business without addressing relief for the states, but more importantly for the individuals, families, and businesses that have been so harshly affected,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told US News.
The measure to provide $60.4 billion in relief and recovery funding was approved by the Senate Friday. The House Appropriations Committee drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure, and a vote had been expected before the 112th Congress’ term ends Thursday.
“This has been a betrayal of trust,” says GOP Rep. Peter King of New York. “We were told at every stage that this was definitely going on. It is inexcusable. It is wrong. It is unprecedented in this country for the United States Congress to walk away from a natural disaster.” TalkingPointsMemo reports that King then took his criticism a step further, saying that insensitive decisions like this are killing the GOP. “It’s absolutely disgraceful,” King said on CNN. “People in my party, they wonder why they’re becoming a minority party. They’re writing off New York, they’re writing off New Jersey. Well, they’ve written me off, and they’re gonna have a hard time getting my vote, I can tell you that.”
Although thoughts of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction may have been forced out of the public consciousness by the holiday chaos, those in affected areas had little to celebrate. Many are still without heat and power and forced to live in shelters, sometimes not knowing where their next meal or medical care will come from.
House leaders did not provide an explanation as to why the vote was canceled, but assured members the issue would be handled later in January. That’s small comfort to those who must now look their neighbors, parents, and children in the eye and tell them that their country can’t be bothered to help. Since the government’s too busy, it looks like we the people will once again have to pick up the slack. If you’re shocked by Speaker Boehner’s decision and want to make a difference yourself, check out Six Things You Can Do To Help Hurricane Sandy Victims.