Late Friday, the Senate approved a $60.4 billion bill to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, including grants for homeowners and businesses, and investments in regional infrastructure for projects like hospitals and transit systems. All the funding needed to pass was House approval.
Last night, however, House Republican leaders announced after passing the fiscal agreement that there would be no more votes in this Congress – effectively killing Sandy aid and forcing the process to start over. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the GOP to reconsider.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) seemed prepared to bring a smaller Sandy aid bill to the floor – the Senate was even prepared to approve it by unanimous consent today – but without explanation, House GOP leaders reversed course last night.
In addition to the Democratic leadership, a bipartisan group of lawmakers representing affected areas quickly condemned Republican leaders for deliberately ignoring Sandy victims, but to no avail. House Speaker John Boehner’s office said he’s content to deal with the aid package in the new Congress, when it will have to start over in the Senate.
“This is an absolute disgrace and the Speaker should hang his head in shame,” Rep. Eliot Engel, (D-N.Y.) said.
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are launching 11th-hour lobbying campaigns this morning, hoping to persuade Boehner to reverse course today, but there’s been no indication from the Speaker’s office that he’s open to changing his mind.