House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who felt the fury of fellow Republicans for refusing a House vote on a much-needed $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill, has now agreed to hold a vote tomorrow on part of the package. But will it be enough to smooth things over with NJ Governor Chris Christie who said yesterday, "There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of [Sandy] victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. Our people were played last night as a pawn. That's why people hate Washington DC."
The Friday vote will be for "$9 billion to cover flood insurance claims." The other $51 billion will be part of a January 15 vote, which is the first day of the new Congress. A NY Times editorial says that waiting that long "means more time wasted and possibly less help for those who need it... It has been more than 66 days since Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York and New Jersey killing more than 130 people and causing an estimated $82 billion in damage. Within 10 days after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast in 2005, Washington agreed on more than $60 billion in aid with more to come."
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) had threatened to not vote for Boehner to remain House Speaker after the non-vote, but now he's "changed his position after the meeting," according to his spokesperson. Grimm issued a new statement:
"In a closed-door meeting with Speaker Boehner and [Majority] Leader [Eric] Cantor, I, along with my GOP colleagues, pressed hard for a commitment on a prompt vote on the Superstorm Sandy aid package. Due to our relentless efforts, we now have the backing and support of our leadership to take a vote on the full $60 billion by Jan. 15. I would have done anything to avoid this delay, but we will have to move forward and do the best we can under the circumstances.
"Although I completely disagreed with the speaker's decision to delay the long-overdue vote, I never questioned his personal desire to help New York, New Jersey and the thousands of people suffering from the devastation of Sandy. In the end, after a slight delay, we will deliver, and my office will continue to work relentlessly on individual casework for our friends and neighbors throughout Staten Island who have shown remarkable resilience and an overwhelming sense of community."
Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) was also very fierce in blasting Boehner's "leadership," saying, "I can't imagine that type of indifference, that type of disregard, that cavalier attitude being shown to any other part of the country, when . . . we're talking about real life-and-death situations here, just to have the speaker walk off and not tell us," adding, "The people in my party, they wonder why they are becoming a minority party. They're writing off New York. They're writing off New Jersey. Well, they've written me off. And they are going to have a hard time getting my vote, I can tell you that." But, after meeting with Boehner, King hedged, "The speaker had made the decision that with what was going on with the fiscal cliff it wasn't the right time to bring it up. We agreed to disagree. Obviously, we made our position clear last night."
Of course, Democrats in the House were a little more forceful last night: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said on MSNBC, "I think this is totally because this is New York and New Jersey. “Boehner would not have done this if this was a red state. It’s because these are blue states... He was afraid of the tea party and the right-wing Republicans, that they shouldn’t have to vote for another spending bill, but this is at the expense of New Jersey and New York."