Republican lawmakers from New York and New Jersey whose storm-ravaged residents are desperate for federal aid are fuming at their party's leaders for refusing to hold a vote on a $60 billion disaster relief package despite promises that help was on the way.
"This was a betrayal," Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., told ABC News.com. "It's just reprehensible. It's an indefensible error in judgment not have given relief to these people that are so devastated."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, called it a "dereliction of duty" in a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
"This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented," the governors said.
Lawmakers were told by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that the relief bill would get a vote on Tuesday night following an eleventh hour vote on the fiscal cliff bill. But in an unexpected switch, Boehner refused to put the relief bill to a vote, leading to lawmakers from parties yelling on the floor of the House.
Congress historically has responded to natural disasters by promptly funding relief efforts. The Senate already passed its version of the bill that would replenish an emergency fund set to run out of cash next week and which will help repair subways and tunnels in New York City and rebuild parts of the New Jersey shore devastated by superstorm Sandy.
Time is particularly pressing, given that a new Congress will be sworn in Thursday. The Senate will therefore have to vote on the bill again before it comes to the House, which could be as late as February or March.
Rep. Peter King, R- N.Y., took the floor of the House and to the airwaves and aimed his outrage squarely at Boehner, accusing him plunging "a cruel knife in the back" of storm-ravaged residents "who don't have shelter, don't have food," he said during a House session this morning.
"This is not the United States. This should not be the Republican Party. This shouldn't not be the Republican leadership," King said on the floor of the House.
He made no attempt to hide his anger, suggesting that residents in New York and New Jersey should stop sending money to Republicans and even questioning aloud whether he could remain a member of the party.
"Anyone who donates one cent to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined," King, a staunch conservative and Republican congressman for 10 years, told CNN.
"They have written off New York and New Jersey. They've written me off…. Party loyalty, I'm over that. When your people are literally freezing in the winter… Then why should I help the Republican Party?" he added.
He said that Boehner refused to talk to Republican members from New York and New Jersey when they tried to ask him about the vote Tuesday night.
"He just decided to sneak off in the dark of night," King said.
Democrats were also outraged.
"It is truly heartless that the House will not even allow the Sandy bill to come to the floor for a vote, and Speaker Boehner should reconsider his ill advised decision," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y., said in a statement.
October's storm was the worst natural disaster ever to hit the region, causing billions in damage and leaving 120 people dead.
More than 130,000 people are expected to make claims to the federal government, but without a funding increase only about 12,000 people can be covered with existing funds.
"It doesn't make sense they wouldn't vote on this. There are truly people in need," said Steve Greenberg, whose home was flooded and damaged by fire in the hard-hit Breezy Point section of Queens. "Not of these people are fit to serve," he said.
Grimm said Boehner's decision fuels a perception that the Republican Party does not care about people.
"It buys into the ideology that Republicans don't care and are callous," he said. Grimm said there were enough votes to get the bill passed and that it makes fiscal sense, because the money would go to help spur small businesses.Also Read