Brown: Officials shouldn't play politics with Sandy aid

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in Washington. (Jan House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in Washington. (Jan 1, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

Every elected official in the land ought to have lambasted House Speaker John Boehner for initially refusing to allow a superstorm Sandy relief bill to reach the floor for a vote.

This wasn't about Long Island or New York or even the northeastern United States. It was about the American government helping Americans recover from a national disaster.

Shame on Boehner. And shame on every elected official in Washington who did not speak out.

Yes, Boehner -- after blistering criticism Wednesday from fellow Republican Peter King and other elected officials in the Northeast -- is now promising a vote by Jan. 15.

But why did he on Tuesday, with no explanation, initially attempt to halt the timely flow of needed federal aid to the region in the first place?

So far, we've heard no explanation from the speaker himself. But that didn't stall speculation.

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Did Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, initially can the measure because he got flak for appearing to bow to a Democrat, President Barack Obama, on the "fiscal cliff" legislation?

Did, as some have suggested, Republican leadership decide to slam New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for standing up for his state rather than bowing to politics during the presidential campaign?

The delay instead created even more Christies, with King, of Seaford, leading the way.

At one point, King took the extraordinary step of calling on New York and New Jersey residents to stop sending money to the Republican Party.

But after a meeting between Boehner and a small group of GOP officials from New York and New Jersey Wednesday, King became decidedly more conciliatory.

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He said he was confident that Boehner would keep a promise to hold one vote Friday on $9 billion in funding for federal flood insurance, and other votes Jan. 15 on the remaining $51 billion in proposed aid.

New York State -- which, by the way, sends $20 billion more in taxes to Washington each year than it gets back in federal spending -- is counting on those funds to help, among other projects, reconstruct Ocean Parkway, harden the Bay Park sewer plant and build housing.

Such projects, in turn, will help create local construction and other jobs, boost small businesses and the region's tourism industry. That is no small thing in a region where recovery from the Great Recession has been slower than in other areas.

Make no mistake, however.

Boehner was forced to change course because of blistering -- and well-deserved -- criticism from King, Christie and other elected officials from New York and New Jersey.

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The speaker's initial move, left unchecked, would have further stalled additional federal funding necessary for the region to recover and rebuild.

The region -- indeed, any community devastated by a natural disaster -- should not have to wait weeks longer than necessary for assistance because of any party's politics.

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