The House of Representatives failed to take up a superstorm Sandy disaster aid package Tuesday night that would have provided $60 billion to hard-hit areas, prompting outrage from both Republicans and Democrats from impacted states.
The current session of the House ends Wednesday, with the Congress elected in November set to take office Thursday. The Senate already passed a Sandy relief bill, but legislation does not carry over to the next Congress, so any bill will have to be introduced again.
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The late October storm destroyed homes and businesses along the East Coast, particularly in New York and New Jersey, prompting lawmakers from the area to call for relief. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief funding has more than $4 billion left, but it can only be used for emergency services.
Representative Peter King (R-New York) said the decision not to hold a vote was "absolutely indefensible," blaming fellow Republicans and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) for not taking up the legislation.
"Everybody played by the rules. Except tonight, when the rug was pulled out from under us," he said on the House floor on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, King said on CNN that he would consider cutting ties with the Republican Party over the issue, and said anyone who donates to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee "should have their head examined."
"It's going to be very hard to ask any of those people to vote for the national Republican Party," he said of the storm's victims.
Boehner's office said that it is committed to passing the relief package.
"The Speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith told The Hill newspaper Wednesday.
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez (D) criticized House Republicans, who control the lower chamber, for failing to take action.
"Never before has USA walked away from its obligation to help Americans after a natural disaster but today #HouseGOP told NJ, NY to drop dead," he tweeted Wednesday.
Menendez has been a vocal advocate of allocating $60 billion to Sandy relief.
"The people of New Jersey and New York deserve no less in their disaster," Menendez said on the Senate floor last week. "I want my colleagues to remember that 10 days after Hurricane Katrina, this chamber passed two separate bills amounting to $60 billion. It has been nearly two months since we had Superstorm Sandy and nothing has passed. Two months. Who among us would be content with the counsels of patience and delay if in fact we were shivering in the cold, if in fact our families had no home?"
"We cannot leave here doing nothing. That would be a disgrace. #Sandy," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted Tuesday night.
The Senate passed a bill on December 28 to aid the storm victims. Some Republicans criticized the bill for including what they said was money that could have gone to projects unrelated to the storm damage, such as rebuilding fisheries in Alaska. But others, including King, said it would have provided badly needed aid to victims, some of them still homeless as a result of the storm.