After receiving a pummeling from members on both sides of the aisle over a decision to not vote on a $60 billion aid bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy, House Republican leadership reversed course.
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a joint statement Jan. 2 that the House of Representatives would vote Jan. 4 on a bill to provide $9 billion in federal funds for flood insurance. A second vote is planned for Jan. 15, the first full legislative day of the 113th Congress, on the remainder of the $60.4 billion aid package that was passed late last month by the Senate.
The shift came after Boehner and his staff met heavy criticism from Govs. Dannel P. Malloy, Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, as well as from numerous U.S. representatives and senators of both parties, after the House Republican leadership chose not to vote on the hurricane relief bill prior to the end of the session.
"I think the speaker, partially motivated by the feedback he got this morning (Jan. 2), has assured us that it will be a high-priority item as soon as the new Congress convenes," said Rep. Jim Himes, a Greenwich Democrat. "We're certainly going to hold him to his commitment."
The lack of a vote before the end of the 112th Congress means that any legislation passed by the House of Representatives to deliver federal aid to the regions impacted by Hurricane Sandy would need to be passed again by the incoming Senate.
Andrew Doba, director of communications for Malloy, said in an email that the delay is "frustrating, especially because the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support."
"This federal assistance would have been a big help to communities across the slate. But for reasons only the House GOP leadership can explain, that aid has been postponed to the next Congress," Doba said.
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said he was disappointed funds had not been granted earlier.
"Immediately after Sandy we had people from FEMA meeting with our operations and administration, telling us. 'Go ahead and start undertaking restoration and repairs,' and that it would be reimbursed 100 percent," Pavia said.
Some costs incurred by the city have been reimbursed, but now that Congress has waited past Jan. 1, the city is no longer eligible to be reimbursed 100 percent, Pavia said.
Now, he said, the reimbursement rate has been reduced to 75 percent, adding that there's the possibility some expenses may not be approved at all.
To date, the city has removed 21,000 tons of storm debris and started to restore its beaches, pavilions and parks, for which the money needed quickly adds up.
"We're certainly concerned," Pavia said. "If it doesn't get reimbursed, it's going to create a very serious budget problem for us."
With the funds delayed, Terence Beaty, director of New Homes and Land at Prudential Connecticut Realty, said both post-Sandy rebuilding efforts and the real estate market in general have been delayed "just like everything else."
"It's going to be a slow economic recovery on all fronts," Beaty said. "If people get that message, and that legislators are getting it wrong, fast enough, maybe they'll get out of the way."