Washington — Connecticut lawmakers Wednesday joined a rebellion by lawmakers from Sandy-hit states against House Speaker John Boehner, who suddenly pulled a bill that would have sent billions of dollars in disaster assistance to the superstorm’s victims.
“Last night, at the dead of the night, the speaker announced that he was abandoning the people of Northeastern America … that is unacceptable,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.
Courtney was one of dozens of lawmakers who took to the floor of the House late Tuesday and then again Wednesday morning to protest Boehner’s decision to scrap the Sandy legislation.
Under intense pressure, Boehner has scheduled a meeting with Republican members from Sandy-hit states Wednesday afternoon.
The rebellion began after the House vote on the fiscal cliff legislation late Tuesday when Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., learned that Boehner, an Ohio Republican, would not put the Sandy disaster bill on the House floor as expected Wednesday, the last full day of the 112th Congress.
King suggested that people in the Northeast should not donate to congressional Republicans because of the Sandy issue and indicated he might not support Boehner in leadership elections Thursday.
“I can’t imagine that type of indifference, that type of disregard, that cavalier attitude being shown to any other part of the country,” King said.
Shortly before Boehner cut off debate at noon, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said everyone, from firefighters and the Red Cross to President Obama, responded quickly to October’s disaster.
“But everything noble … is denied by the decision of the Republican leadership to not bring up Sandy today and to leave desperate and vulnerable people hanging,” Himes said. “Mr. Speaker, reverse your decision now and let’s do the right thing for our people.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged the speaker to reconsider in a letter released by his office.
“Your decision to postpone consideration of a disaster supplemental until after the 113th Congress commences likely delays delivery of relief for months, and therefore delays the process of rebuilding from Sandy,” Malloy wrote. “It sends a terrible message to the citizens of the affected states that the leadership of the House of Representatives feels no sense of urgency, with winter upon us, to aid fellow citizens in their great time of need as the Congress has done time and again when other natural disasters have devastated communities elsewhere in the country.”
In harder-hit New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie’s criticism of Boehner and “toxic internal politics” of the House GOP was carried live on CNN.
On the House floor earlier in the morning, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, called Boehner’s actions “a shocking display of neglect” and the GOP leadership’s decision to pull the Sandy bill a violation of “a contract of citizenship” with Sandy victims.
“They said, ‘You are on your own,’” DeLauro said.
The Senate approved a $60.4 billion Sandy aid package last week. Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Christie and Malloy urged the House to act quickly.
But some House conservatives objected to the size of the package.
A compromise was reached. There would be a vote on a stripped-down $27 billion bill that would replenish the federal flood insurance program and provide funds for emergency services, but not mitigation.
A separate amendment in the amount of $33 billion that would bring the package more in line with what the Senate approved would be considered separately. That approach would have allowed House conservatives a chance to vote against the additional spending.
But Boehner has decided that the 113th Congress, to be gaveled in Thursday, should consider the Sandy funding.
That means the Senate will have to vote on the package again. It also likely means weeks of delay as Congress is in recess next week and subject to shortened work periods in the following two weeks.
The White House on Wednesday weighed in on the matter.
“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,” President Obama said in a statement.