Hurricane Sandy victims finally got some good news Friday, Jan. 4, when Congress voted to pass a $9.7 billion aid package. Despite it being overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers, anger about how long it took to pass was easily seen just below the surface.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blasted both President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders for playing politics with the lives of his citizens. Many citizens were outraged at the fact that some members of Congress voted against the aid. New York Republican Congressman Peter King blasted his fellow Republicans who voted against the package.
“Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value.” -
The aid bill is intended to help replenish and shore up the National Flood Insurance Program, which has seen the majority of the damage claims resulting from the storm. The 67 congressional members who voted against the bill, all Republicans, are now facing a monumental political backlash and are having to explain their actions to both the media and their constituents.
One of those Republicans, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, defended his “no” vote on the bill in a statement saying the any assistance be accompanied by reforms to the insurance program, and that the president and Congress must do better.
"We must help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. We should meet all of their needs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Washington's legislative response fails on both counts. It refuses to distinguish - or even prioritize - disaster relief over pork-barrel spending...It would be irresponsible to raise an insolvent program’s debt ceiling without making the necessary reforms...In a time of crisis, we must ensure that every dollar we spend is on those who need it. President Obama and Congress owe the people of New York and New Jersey better." - Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
All 67 “no” votes came from Republicans in Congress and, in a Jan. 4 column, New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica ripped those lawmakers who he says “abandoned” the storm victims it the region, but had no problems taking money for themselves when offered.
"The worst of the phonies come from Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, who came running for money in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We bailed them out then, but they tell us to drop dead.” - New York Daily News' Mike Lupica, written Jan. 4.
Lupica concluded his column by saying the Republicans who voted against the package, 67 in all, treated storm victims like they had no right to the same aid received by the storm-weary Gulf Coast states.
“This week a bunch of Republicans came along and kicked them when they were down.”
According to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the real battle for aid to the affect areas is yet to come. While pleased it passed, Schumer noted that it represents only a portion of the $60 billion being requested by leaders in the affected region to help rebuild.
"We should not have parades down the street because this bill has passed. The major work of helping the victims of Sandy is still ahead of us." - Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-NY)
Congressional Republicans who voted against the aid packages contend that while the funds are necessary to help storm-ravaged victims, the government needs to make sure the package can be paid for. With the debt ceiling debate next on the political radar, further aid packages for Sandy victims are likely to be met with even greater resistance, especially with a slew of newly elected Congressional members set to take their seats when the next session of Congress convenes later this month. In anticipation of this resistance, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a joint statement calling on Congress to act swiftly to further assist those affected by the storm.
"We are trusting Congress to act accordingly on January 15th and pass the final $51 billion instrumental for long-term rebuilding in order for New Jersey, New York and our people to recover after the severe devastation of Hurricane Sandy."