The holdup in federal disaster aid for those hit by superstorm Sandy could be either aggravating or apocalyptic. It depends on whether the money is actually approved over the next two weeks, and now no one is going to believe the money is secure until the votes have actually been cast.
Our representatives in Washington must pull out every stop to get that money. To their credit, it seems they are doing so.
After the House of Representatives approved legislation to avoid the "fiscal cliff" Tuesday, it was to take up the $60.4 billion in Sandy aid the Senate already approved. That never happened. Even the over-politicized proposal, which split the money into a $27-billion main package and a $33-billion addition by amendment, never got to the floor.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress approved recovery aid for the Gulf region in a couple of weeks. Sandy battered the Northeast more than two months ago, and communities and individuals desperate for help haven't even seen a vote on their aid in the House. There's absolutely no justification for it.
The reasons are murky, but at the heart of the issue seems to be a typical Republican disdain for the mostly blue Northeast that has Republican and Democratic governors and members of Congress from our region apoplectic. Rightfully so.
House Republican leaders also added insult to injury by giving no warning the bill wouldn't be voted on.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he found out at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday that the bill wouldn't come up, and four phone calls to Speaker of the House John Boehner went unanswered. King, enraged, said early yesterday that Northeasterners would be fools to contribute to Republican campaigns at this point, and he's right. His message was clear: Republicans, stand against our needed aid and see your coffers suffer evermore. His message appears to have been heard.
King and other lawmakers from this region were finally granted an audience with Boehner at 3 p.m. yesterday. The speaker said it would have sent the wrong message to approve $60 billion in emergency aid immediately after negotiating to avoid a fiscal cliff that featured Boehner and his more vocal members demanding spending cuts.
Now, Boehner promises the money will be voted on: $9 billion tomorrow to replenish the National Flood Insurance Program and $51 billion, split into an $18-billion appropriation and a $33-billion amendment, on Jan. 15. It's all posturing and politicking when people's lives and futures are at stake. Sandy damaged more than 100,000 homes on Long Island alone, and destroyed almost 2,000 here. New Jersey, parts of New York City and Connecticut saw the same types of destruction. The funding should have been approved weeks ago. Failing that, it should have been voted on, as promised, Tuesday night. Now, we wait and hope. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut send far more money to the federal government than they get back. The region needs the nation's help, and it should get it.