Republicans Blame Boehner For Failure On Sandy Relief

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New York Republicans and Democrats are publicly furious with Speaker John Boehner for abruptly cancelling an expected vote late Tuesday night on a relief package for victims of superstorm Sandy.

The Senate recently passed an aid package for Sandy victims worth $60 billion, a price tag that made many House Republicans nervous. So they decided to divide it up into two parts: $27 billion and $33 billion. The first part was vetted by appropriators for wasteful spending but the second wasn’t. And most of the latter chunk would not have been spent in the first year, anyway. So one school of thought was to vote separately on both and let the chips fall where they may.

The likely upshot was that the House would immediately authorize $27 billion for victims and give themselves time to determine, in the next Congress, how much of the rest was necessary. A two-track vote was expected after the bill to avert the fiscal cliff. But it never happened. Why was it pulled?

Wednesday morning on the House floor, New York Republican Reps. Peter King and Michael Grimm blamed Boehner for what they described as a betrayal.

“It was entirely the speaker’s decision,” said a GOP leadership aide, who doesn’t work in Boehner’s office. “As to why we’re not voting on it now? That’s a question I can’t answer.”A Boehner aide told TPM on Wednesday that the speaker intends to prioritize the Sandy relief package when the new Congress convenes Thursday, and has shared that with members of the New York and New Jersey delegation.

“The speaker will make the supplemental his first priority in the new Congress,” the aide said.

At a press conference in New York, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Wednesday that he’s “distraught” and “angry” over the House’s failure to hold a vote, blaming it on a House GOP “leadership squabble.” He said Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has been “truly helpful” in piecing together the package and blamed Boehner.

“Cantor has been very much for us, but Speaker Boehner … pulled the rug out from under us,” Schumer said. “It’s a Boehner betrayal.”

A Cantor aide affirmed that the majority leader has been pushing for the package.

“Majority Leader Cantor is committed to ensuring the urgent needs of New York and New Jersey residents are met, and he has been working tirelessly toward that goal,” the aide told TPM.

King called the lack of a vote “disgraceful,” saying Boehner “refused to tell us why” the vote didn’t happen or provide “any indication or warning whatsoever.”

“People in my party, they wonder why they’re becoming a minority party,” King said on CNN. “Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican congressional campaign committee should have their head examined.”

The consequence of the move is that lawmakers must start all over on the relief package once the 113th Congress convenes Thursday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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