House leadership told legislators Tuesday that it would not vote on an aid bill for super-storm Sandy victims in the lame-duck session, following an all-out debate over the fiscal cliff bill.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told the Associated Press that he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had decided not to bring the bill to the floor. On the House floor, King called the decision "absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities."
Last week, the Senate passed a $60.4 billion aid bill that will expire if the House does not vote on it Wednesday. The House Appropriations Committee had already drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure, and a vote had been expected before the end of the Congressional session Thursday.
FEMA reportedly has enough funds in its coffers to continue some recovery for a few more months, but representatives say the funds are only able to be used on emergency services.
Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer was also informed about the change hours after telling reporters Cantor had assured him it would come to a vote. "I am deeply disappointed at that information. We have millions of our fellow citizens who have been badly damaged by a storm called Sandy," he said.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle decried the decision, particularly those from areas hardest hit by the storm that left 120 dead and damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of businesses and homes.
"This is an absolute disgrace and the speaker should hang his head in shame," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
"I'm here tonight saying to myself for the first time that I'm not proud of the decision my team has made," said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. "It is the wrong decision, and I' m going to be respectful and ask that the speaker reconsider his decision. Because it's not about politics, it's about human lives."
A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel said, "The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month."