The final session of the 112th House of Representatives convened on Wednesday with a swirl of controversy and accusations of a lack of leadership on the part of House Speaker John Boehner.
Earlier on Wednesday, Digital Journal reported that House Speaker John Boehner refused to allow a vote on the Hurricane Sandy Aid bill passed by the Senate on Friday. The refusal angered many, including members of Boehner's own party. Several Republicans stated they would join together with House Democrats and demand the Speaker bring the measure to a vote.
After House members were told the bill would not be brought to the House floor for a vote, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the decision:
"Unprecedented, disgusting, unworthy of the leadership of this House."
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) called Boehner's decision "inexcusable" and said:
"It is with an extremely heavy heart that I stand here, almost in disbelief and somewhat ashamed."
When the House convened Wednesday morning, both Republican and Democrat House members marched to the House floor podium and called on Boehner to allow the Superstorm Sandy Aid bill to be brought to a vote.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) pointed out that just 10 days after Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast, $60 billion in aid was approved by Congress. She said unlike this House leadership, "that Congress did something". She went on to say that nine weeks after Hurricane Sandy destroyed parts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, Congress has failed to act, leaving those who desperately need help out in the cold.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called the action of House leadership "immoral". He continued by saying everything that the House leadership asked for was provided as far as documentation, yet Speaker Boehner chose to "walk away from the people of New York." He accused Boehner of not even telling fellow House members that he would not call for a vote on the package. Instead, King said Boehner had aides in his office notify members that the bill had been taken off the calendar.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) stated he had inquired if it was possible to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote, but had not received an answer. Rangle offered an olive branch to the Speaker, saying House members should remember that the fiscal cliff was dominating the time and attention of the Speaker and House leadership. He called on people to please consider that the Speaker may have simply been busy and the measure fallen "through the cracks." He then called on the Speaker to allow the legislation to be brought to a vote, thus allowing the American people that chance to thank Boehner for his leadership in allowing a vote to approve the aid package.
Frank LoBiondo (R-NY) called the decision not allow the Superstorm Sandy Relief bill to be brought to a vote "absurd". He reminded fellow House members that Republicans and Democrats stood "shoulder to shoulder" and worked on a bipartisan package that he is convinced can be passed. He admitted he was angry and frustrated and said that the bill is not about politics or Congress, it is about constituents who have had their lives torn apart.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) reminded members of the House that their body of Congress is "The People's House", and that it was the job of the House and of the Speaker to address the needs of the American people. He then called on Boehner to "do the right thing".
On Tuesday, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) told Boehner:
"This two tiered amendment disaster relief bill before us can and must get us to the $60 billion that is desperately needed to assist families, businesses and municipalities devastated by Superstorm Sandy."
On Wednesday, Smith again addressed Boehner, saying "We need to act". He went on to tell the Speaker that the citizens of New Jersey have been devastated and the bill needs to be brought to the floor for a vote because "the people deserve no less."
Shortly before noon eastern time, President Obama issued a statement asking the House to vote on the bill. In the statement he says:
"When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans."
New York Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Christie both called the House leadership's action a "dereliction of duty" before adding:
"This continued inaction and indifference ... is inexcusable."
Despite the demands of many House members, including members of Boehner's own party, he adjourned the House for the day without calling for a vote on the Sandy aid bill according to the House floor summery.