N.J. state and federal lawmakers outraged over failure to take up Sandy relief package

New Jersey federal lawmakers expressed shock and outrage Wednesday over a failure by House Republicans to allow a Superstorm Sandy relief package from hitting the House floor for a vote Tuesday night.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) called Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to prevent a vote on billions in federal aid relief outrageous.

“I am outraged that at a time when we need it the most, Speaker Boehner could dismiss the need for the same kind of relief that has been granted to other regions hit by similar disasters,” stated Pallone.  “This bill has already passed in the U.S. Senate and must be brought up for a vote before the end of this Congress, now.”

Pallone spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives after House Republicans pulled the plug on the relief package Tuesday by preventing the proposal from hitting the floor for a vote. The bill, which already cleared the Senate floor, would have provided $60.4 billion in aid for New Jersey and other states affected by Sandy.

Pallone’s comments were echoed by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who issued a statement Wednesday blasting House Republicans for hitting “a new low.”

“When our neighbors in other states are knocked down by emergency events, we put partisan politics aside and extend a helping hand to help them get back up,” Lautenberg said.

“Helping struggling families recover from disasters has never been a partisan issue in Washington and it never should be,” he said. “New Jersey and New York families have been hurt badly by Sandy and it is shameful that Washington Republicans are adding to their pain by standing in the way of their recovery.”

The state’s other U.S. senator also echoed Lautenberg’s comments, saying House Republicans effectively told New York and New Jersey to “drop dead,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

“I cannot recall a congressional act to be so inconsistent with our core principle that we are the United States of America than the House Republican leadership’s decision to kill a vote on the Sandy recovery package,” he said in a statement.

“The Senate voted to provide a reasonable relief package to the stricken region which is struggling to get back on its feet, but the indifference of the House callously jeopardizes peoples’ well-being.  In the few hours remaining in the 112th Congress, I call upon House Republicans to recognize their humanity over their partisanship,” he said. “Help the thousands of Americans in our area who will be forced to brave the cold of winter without homes, their businesses, their jobs, right now.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), called the decision to not take a vote “unconscionable,” saying in a statement House Republicans should “go back to work for as long as it takes until something is done, period.”

“If they don’t feel like taking action, I invite them then to use this break in their time to come visit what is left of the Jersey Shore.  They can see the destroyed houses, shattered boardwalks and decimated businesses,” he said.

“It is too important to New Jersey to just sit in limbo.  I am calling on our state’s Republican congressmen to push their fellow party members to vote for passage immediately,” Sweeney said. “I am also calling on Governor Christie, the man who delivered the keynote address at his party’s convention, to call on his party’s congressional members to get their act together.  New Jersey deserves better.”

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie called on federal lawmakers to stop “bickering” and approve the package before allowing the current term of Congress to end.

“While I know they are consumed with fighting and bickering with each other … don’t forget that people are suffering,” he said during a Belmar town hall meeting. “They can return to bickering as soon as they get done with the business that is the first responsibility of government.”

The governor said the relief package was critical to ensuing the Garden State can bounce back from the storm.

Under the proposal aid would have also been sent to New York and Connecticut.

The package is currently set to die on the Senate floor Thursday at noon.

"I don't think what he's doing tonight, the method by which he's doing it helps to build a trustful relationship."
—Gov. Chris Christie reacting to President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform.