House Republicans Stalling Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill

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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

After taking its sweet time but eventually addressing the fiscal cliff, the House of Representatives thinks it deserves a little break. Speaker John Boehner and his gang of merry Republicans will likely fail to pass a bill providing aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy before adjourning this week, leaving a $60.4 billion package passed by the Senate to die. If no vote occurs, legislation must be reintroduced and passed all over again in the new Congress.

"This is absolutely indefensible," said Republican Peter King of New York on the House floor Tuesday night. "We have a moral obligation to hold this vote."

Another New York politician Representative Nita Lowey echoed King's disappointment in Boehner. "I truly feel betrayed this evening," she said. "We can pass this bill tomorrow with bipartisan support." The House has for weeks put up resistance to the Senate aid package, which is set to expire on Thursday at noon.

"It is truly heartless that the House will not even allow the Sandy bill to come to the floor for a vote, and Speaker Boehner should reconsider his ill-advised decision," said Senator Charles Schumer. Nancy Pelosi added on Twitter, "We cannot leave here doing nothing. That would be a disgrace."

A spokesman for Boehner told Buzzfeed, "The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month," but the symbolism of waiting to address the disaster — especially in the wake of the fiscal cliff mess — is enough to rankle just about every politician from the affected areas. "I am stunned, stunned," said Representative Rob Andrews of New Jersey. "I assume there is a tactical consideration here, that the Republican leadership didn't want to be anywhere near a big spending bill after the fiasco of their handling the tax debate. I understand the tactics but there is a real human need here that is being ignored."

Update: President Obama joins the chorus calling for action in a statement:

It has only been two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as other eastern states. Our citizens are still trying to put their lives back together. Our states are still trying to rebuild vital infrastructure. And so, last month, working closely with the Governors of the affected states, I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover. The Senate passed this request with bipartisan support. But the House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead, and who also still need immediate support with the bulk of winter still in front of us.

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.