With the majority of attention being placed on the fiscal cliff negotiations, many around the United States may have forgotten that another key piece of legislation was awaiting a House vote.
On Friday, the U.S. Senate passed the Hurricane Sandy Aid bill, legislation which would provide $60.4 billion in aid to storm ravaged states such as New York and New Jersey. The bill passed 62-32, which included 12 Republicans voting for the measure.
The Senate legislation was considerably less than the $82 billion in aid requested by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, had been in Washington lobbying Congress to approve the $82 billion price tag.
Despite the nearly $22 billion reduction, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo supported the bill. They issued a joint statement urging the House to approve the funding, saying:
"The Senate has passed this aid package in a bipartisan manner and there is no reason the House shouldn't do the same. Remember that disasters affect every region of this nation and that we as a nation stand together in times of crisis."
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee released a revised version of the bill which would provide $27 billion in emergency relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. An attached amendment would allow the amount to be increased by $33 billion if House members chose. If the amendment passed, it would have brought the total amount of aid to the $60.4 billion agreed upon by the Senate. Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen planned to introduce the amendment and urge fellow House members to vote to approve the bill and amendment.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky, stated:
"Given the size and scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, it is essential that Congress provide the victims of this storm and their communities with the necessary federal aid as soon as possible.”
Fellow House Republican, Rep. Peter King, spent much of Tuesday trying to secure enough votes to pass the measure before the 112th Congress adjourned. His efforts were in vain however.
House Speaker John Boehner was unwilling to introduce the bill to the House before the session ended. Instead, his office said the Speaker preferred to reintroduce legislation once the new Congress convenes.
As word of Boehner's decision began to spread, fellow Republicans voiced their outrage, with Rep. Peter King telling the New York Times:
“This is absolutely indefensible. We have a moral obligation to hold this vote.”
King went on to tell CNN that Boehner's decision was disgraceful before saying:
"It even makes it worse being a Republican. The whole region was devastated and we have never had a natural disaster before where Congress walked away."
New York Republican Rep. Charlie Rangel was so angry with the decision, he gave out the phone number for the Capitol switchboard and encouraged people to call and appeal to Boehner and House Republican leaders.
Rep. Michael G. Grimm, a Republican from the devastated area of Staten Island, told Roll Call that, for the first time in his career, he was not proud of the decision made by the Republican House leadership.
King, along with Republicans Tom Reed (NY), Todd Platts (PA) and Charlie Dent (PA), plans to join with Democrats in demanding the House vote on the Sandy Aid bill on Wednesday.